Catholic Church celebrates 500th anniversary of first Caribbean dioceses

This weekend, as reports, the Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Dominican Republic recalled in a pastoral letter the evangelizing work of the Church throughout the history of the Dominican people. The Church is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the founding of the first Catholic dioceses in the New World, founded on the islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.

“The Church has been able to develop a creative imagination and give rise to a religious personality capable of living in this world and providing new pastoral methods and new religious communities to meet the challenges of changing times,” reads the letter.

The presence of the Catholic Church is an essential part of the history of the Dominican Republic. In fact, it is believed that the first Mass to be celebrated in the Americas was celebrated on the island of Hispaniola – half of which constitutes the Dominican Republic. Recalling the efforts of missionaries and other religious, as well as laity, the bishops wrote “Despite its defects and its errors, the presence of the Catholic faith and of the ecclesial institution have established themselves throughout the entire history of the Dominican people, shaping its life through the experience of her teaching and through the social work of its members, despite the limits of the institutions and pastoral resources.”

The document also reaffirms that the Church was and is a missionary Church, open to external missionary cooperation and grateful for the support of many priests, religious, laity and men and women who have come from overseas to contribute with their work.

The letter also notes that, given the continuing precariousness of the public education system and of the health system, the Church has also shown itself to be deeply committed to the social needs of the nation, especially in education and health. It also says that the Church has assumed the role of prophetic and civil mediator in a society that lacks institutional features and exists permanently exposed to instability. In this regard, the letter also mentions that the Church is free, because without political ties and controls, it has reached such levels of freedom that have allowed dissent and her prophetic work.

The Episcopal Conference published the pastoral letter, “500 years of Mission, evangelising the Country” to commemorate the creation of the first three American dioceses: Santo Domingo, La Vega (both in the Dominican Republic) and San Juan de Puerto Rico, through the Bull “Romanus Pontifex” issued by Pope Julius II, on August 8, 1511.

For the original report go to

Image: Salvador Dalí’s Dream of Christopher Columbus. 

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