The Philippine nation is deserving of particular honor since, from the beginning of its Christianization, from the moment that Magellan planted the Cross in Cebu four hundred and sixty years ago, on April 15, 1521, all through the centuries, its people have remained true to the Christian faith. In an achievement that remains unparalleled in history, the message of Christ took root in the hearts of the people within a very brief span of time, and the Church was thus strongly implanted in this nation of seven thousand islands and numerous tribal and ethnic communities.
The rich geographical and human diversity, the various cultural traditions, and the people's spirit of joy and sharing, together with the fruits of the missionary efforts, have successfully blended and have shaped, through periods which were sometimes not devoid of shadows and weaknesses, a clear national identity that is unmistakably Filipino and truly Christian. The attachment to the Catholic faith has been tested under succeeding regimes of colonial control and foreign occupation, but fidelity to the faith and to the Church remained unshaken and grew even stronger and more mature.
Due homage must be paid to this achievement of the Filipino people, but what you are also creates an obligation and it confers upon the nation a specific mission. A country that has kept the Catholic faith strong and vibrant through the vicissitudes of its history, the sole nation in Asia that is approximately ninety percent Christian, assumes by this very fact the obligation not only to preserve its Christian heritage but to bear witness to the values of its Christian culture before the whole world.
Although small in size of land and population compared to some of its neighbors, the Philippine nation has undoubtedly a special role in the concert of nations, in order to consolidate peace and international understanding, and more particularly in maintaining stability in South East Asia, where it has a vital task.
The Filipino people will always draw the strength and inspiration that they need to carry out this task from their noble heritage—a heritage not only of Christian faith but also of the rich human and cultural values that are their own. Every man and woman, whatever his or her status or role, must strive in all earnestness to preserve, to deepen and to consolidate these values—these priceless gifts—against the many factors which seriously threaten them today.
An extract from the message of John Paul II: