THE Archdiocese of Cebu will host various events in 2021 to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, during which the Roman Catholic faithful expect the presence of Pope Francis, Archbishop Jose Palma said Sunday.
He said the invitation had been sent to the Vatican for the leader of the 1.2-billion members of the Roman Catholic Church worldwide to visit the Philippines.
“Two years from now we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first baptism, the first mass,” Palma said in his homily during the pontifical mass in honor of the Santo Niño de Cebu whose fiesta is celebrated on Jan. 20.
“If the Lord permits, let’s pray for the possible visit of the Pope who has been invited to come. Let’s pray for God’s mercy because this is an important anniversary of Santo Niño’s arrival in Cebu.”
Palma said the Philippines is known to be the “cradle of Christianity in Asia.”
He reminded the devotees about the significance of the finding of the miraculous image of Santo Niño on April 28, 1565, some 44 years after the arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan on March 16, 1521.
“We know it as a fact that in 1521, when the Spaniards arrived, they baptized Queen Juana and the image of the Santo Niño was given,” Palma said.
Juana was the wife of King Humabon, the ruler of Cebu, when Magellan arrived.
After 44 years, when the Agustinian missionaries arrived with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in Cebu, the image was found unscathed in a scorched hut.
“The point is, we say that the Spaniards found the Santo Niño image, but the truth is, it was the Santo Niño who found us, the people in Islas de la Pilipinas,” Palma said in his homily.
The Cebu Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has set this year’s theme for the year of the youth as “Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered” in preparation for the 2021 celebration, Palma said.
He urged the faithful to pray for the celebration.