NOT even the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic will stop the Roman Catholic Church from celebrating 500 years of Christianity (YOC) in the country.
Social media activities aligned with the celebration were launched on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.
“As an archbishop, I can say that the celebration of 500th YOC will push through despite the health crisis. Not even Covid can stop the celebration of the 500th YOC. Some of the activities will spill over to 2022 since we can’t celebrate as meaningfully and as joyfully and as solemnly as we want,” Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
The launching was streamed live on the official Facebook page of the 500th YOC-Archdiocese of Cebu.
Because of the pandemic, the Roman Catholic Church extended the celebration to 2022. This means the supposed culminating activity in April 2021 will now be the launch of a yearlong celebration that will end in April 2022.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), in a news release dated Thursday, Sept. 24, quoted Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, CBCP acting president, as saying that it was necessary to change the schedule.
The bishops agreed that the kick-off will be on April 17, an Easter Sunday, to commemorate the first Easter Sunday mass in the country.
Rev. Fr. Mhar Balili, secretary general and overall chairman of activities for the 500th YOC, said they have lined up major events like social media activities starting on Sept. 26 until March of 2021.
During the 500th anniversary itself, he said there will be a weeklong celebration from April 11 to 18, 2021, showcasing exhibits, culture events, symposia and reenactments of the first baptism and mass baptism on April 14, 2021.
From March 2021 to April 2022, there will be Parish and Archdiocesan jubilees and the pilgrimage of the Jubilee Cross together with the image of the Sto. Niño in all parishes in Cebu.
From April 18 to 22, 2022, the activities will be culminated with a second casual meeting Congress and a grand procession.
Pagsangyaw 2021, the evangelization program spearheaded by the Commission on Laity, is currently ongoing.
The CBCP said the National Historical Commission of the Philippines earlier affirmed that the first mass was held in Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte on March 31, 1521.
Last Sept. 12, the Diocese of Maasin began a 200-day countdown to the 500th anniversary of the 1521 Eucharistic celebration.
The first baptism will also be commemorated on April 14, 2021. The event will be spearheaded by the Archdiocese of Cebu.
Originally set in April 2021, the bishops also moved the International Mission Congress (IMC) and the 2nd National Mission Congress to April 2022.
Bishop David said the National Retreat for the Clergy set on Aug. 4 to 6, 2021 has been cancelled.
Instead of a retreat, he said the bishops’ Commission on the Clergy decided to organize a series of conferences on church history in the Philippines.
“Each (CBCP) commission will also have adjustments of their plans due to the crisis that we are going through,” he said. (WBS with PR)