1st Christian mass in PH remembered on March 31

At a glance

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The Catholic Church will observe on Friday, March 31, the 502nd anniversary of the first Christian Mass in the Philippines and the introduction and spread of Christianity in the country and in the Far East.

Commemorative rites are traditionally held in Southern Leyte, the venue of the Sinugdan (which means beginning) Festival in remembrance of the event, including a holy mass, a re-enactment of the first mass, a cultural presentation, street pageants, and a sports fest called the “bancaton,” or boat race.

The first Holy Mass in the country was held on March 31, 1521, in Limasawa Island. It was celebrated by Spanish friar Pedro de Valderrama, who was part of the group of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

Held on an Easter Sunday, the historic first Christian mass in the country marked the beginning of the spread of Christianity in Asia. It was attended by Rajahs Kolambu and Siagu, who later forged a blood compact of friendship with Magellan.

On April 14, 1521, Rajah Humabon, his wife, and around 400 Filipino natives were baptized into Christianity, in a ceremony administered by Fr. Valderrama.

The Philippines observed a year-long celebration to mark the 500 years of Christianity in the country that began on April 4, 2021, Easter Sunday until April 24, 2022, a Divine Mercy Sunday.

With the theme Gifted to Give, Pope Francis extended the duration of the granting of the plenary indulgence to visitors of the more than 500 Jubilee churches until December 31, 2022, in consideration of the restrictions brought about by the pandemic.

In 2012, the local Church began a nine-year spiritual journey in preparation for the celebration.