The Holy See and the Republic of the Philippines celebrate the 70th year of their diplomatic ties in 2021. One of the activities for this milestone was a virtual lecture organized by the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila in collaboration with the University of Santo Tomas. It was livestreamed for public viewing on the official UST Facebook page on November 18, 2021.
With the lecture theme “An Overview of the 70th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Holy See and the Philippines,” Church historian Fr. Nestor Impelido, S.D.B., Archivist of the Salesian of Don Bosco Archives, presented his paper titled “Archbishop Piani’s Letter to President Quirino: Papal Diplomacy in Manila on the Eve of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations.”
Fr. Impelido’s paper was the result of a discovery in the Salesian of Don Bosco Archives of a letter draft prepared by Archbishop Guglielmo Piani, S.D.B., the last Apostolic Delegate prior to the formal establishment of diplomatic relations.
In December 1948, Archbishop Piani penned this missive from a ship headed to the USA, meant to be sent to then-President Elpidio Quirino. He wanted to thank President Quirino for the kindness shown to him during his last audience in Malacañang and wrote about observations of Filipino Catholic society that he wanted Quirino to act upon.
“He asked to express certain things as a humble servant, whose intent was only for the good and happiness of the Philippines, whom he considered as a nation that had a responsibility to the world,” Fr. Impelido contextualized.
Archbishop Piani, who has served as the Apostolic Delegate from 1922 to 1948, wrote about the importance of the dignity and Christian consolidation of the family, Christian education, youth, the observance of Sunday as the Day of the Lord, and the moral values of Filipino society. He wrote in the hopes of keeping the “light of faith” lit in the Philippines and attempted to open dialogue with even the President of the Philippines, for Quirino had the sense of social humility to listen.
The document now acts as a snapshot of the relations between the two sovereign nations right on the cusp of diplomatic relations.
UST Rector Very Rev. Fr. Richard G. Ang, O.P., Ph.D., in his message, said that “The Holy See has always been our companion in our history as a People and UST has been the testament of the enduring relationship between the Holy See and the Filipino People,” citing the elevation of UST to a Pontifical University by Pope Leo XIII in 1902, and the conferment of the title “The Catholic University of the Philippines” by Pope Pius XII in 1947.
“We rejoice in the legacy of seven decades of solid and fruitful diplomatic relations, and we recommit ourselves to the strengthening of those relations in our present time,” said the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Archbishop Charles John Brown, D.D.
Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Hon. Teodoro Locsin, Jr., noted that Filipinos are recognized as the third-largest Catholic population in the world, and in their work abroad, they have established such strong Filipino Catholic communities abroad that Pope Francis himself called them ‘the smugglers of faith.’ Locsin said in his video message, “in their daily lives, they are the living examples of the goodness of our faith.”
The Philippines, as the nation with the largest Catholic population in Asia, has held diplomatic relations with the Holy See in high regard. Key moments in their seven-decade-long joint history include the four Papal Visits to the Philippines, first by Pope Paul VI in 1970, Pope John Paul II in 1981 and 1995, and most recently, Pope Francis in 2015, as Holy See Secretary for Relations with States Most Rev. Paul Gallagher, D.D., noted in his message.
It would be remembered that UST has hosted Eucharistic Celebrations or encounters with the youth on campus during each pastoral and state visit by the Roman Pontiff.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Church Cultural Heritage Chairman and Bishop of Dumaguete Most Rev. Julito Cortes, D.D., and UST Secretary-General and UST Asst. Archivist Rev. Fr. Louie R. Coronel, O.P., E.H.L., served as the reactors.
Diplomatic ties between the Holy See and the Philippines began on April 8, 1951, with the appointment of Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi as the first Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines.