The Great Jubilee of the Arcdiocese of Zamboanga
(Introduction to the Golden Jubilee Mass) 19 May 2008
April 10th and May 19 this year are two very significant days in the history of the Catholic faith in Zamboanga City. Last April 10, we launched the Centennial Jubilee of the Archdiocese at the Shrine of Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and today, here at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Concepcion, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of our church as an Archdiocese. On these two historic events, it is but fitting to recall the highlights within the period close to a hundred years that defined the history of our Catholic faith and identity here in Zamboanga.
The church of Zamboanga was first established as a Diocese on April 10, 1910 by Pope Pius X. The diocese comprised of Mindanao, including Basilan and Sulu. On May 19, 1958, Pope Pius XII raised it to the stature of Archdiocese. Thus, the Zamboanga See became a Metropolitan Archdiocese, and the Ecclesiastical Province of Zamboanga came into existence.
The church of Zamboanga has undergone several changes in its composition since it was decreed as the first diocese in Mindanao ninety-eight years ago. On January 20, 1933, Pope Pius XI divided the Mindanao area into two. The northern portion comprising the provinces of Surigao, Agusan, Misamis, Bukidnon, and Lanao was placed under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Cagayan de Oro, which was created on July 4, 1933. The whole southern portion, meanwhile, including the Sulu Archipelago, was assigned to the care of the Diocese of Zamboanga.
After four years on July 31, 1937, the diocese of Dipolog was erected from the province of Zamboanga, followed by the creation of the prelature "Nullius" of Davao on December 17, 1949 comprising the civil province of Davao and the southern part of Zamboanga diocese. The Diocese of Zamboanga was then further divided upon the creation of the Prelature of Cotabato in 1950.
In the following year, Cagayan de Oro was elevated to an archdiocese, the first in the island of Mindanao. All episcopal jurisdictions in Mindanao and Sulu, including that of Zamboanga, became suffragans of this archdiocese.
Within a period of twelve years on October 12, 1963, the civil jurisdiction of Basilan was separated from the Archdiocese of Zamboanga and made into the prelature "Nullius" of Isabela. In less than ten years thereafter on November 17, 1971, the diocese of Pagadian was detached from the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. And finally on December 24, 1979, the prelature "Nullius" of Ipil, comprising half of Zamboanga del Sur, was formed independent of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga.
As an ecclesiastical province, the Archdiocese of Zamboanga now comprises the City of Zamboanga and part of the province of Zamboanga del Sur. As a Metropolitan See, it has the Prelature of Ipil, the Prelature of Isabela, Basilan, and the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo. The titular patroness of the Archidocese is Our Lady of the Pillar, a popular devotion of the Zamboangueños.
The Catholic faith and identity of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga from the early years to this day has been under the pastoral care and leadership of several bishops and archbishops: Most Rev Michael J. O'Doherty, DD (1911-1916), Most Rev James P. Mc Closkey, DD (1917-1920), Most Rev Jose P. Clos, SJ DD, (1920-1931), Most Rev Luis del Rosario, SJ DD (1933-1966), Most Rev Lino R. Gonzaga, DD (1966-1973), Most Rev Francisco R. Cruces, DD (1973-1995), Most Rev Carmelo D.F. Morelos, DD (1995-2005), and now the present Archbishop Romulo G. Valles DD who was installed Archbishop of Zamboanga on January 9, 2007 here at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.