The joy of the Gospel has been an integral part of the Filipino identity since the arrival of Christianity in the Southeast Asian country five centuries ago, Pope Francis said.

Commemorating the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines March 14, the pope told members of Rome’s Filipino community that evangelical zeal is a “part of your genes, a blessed ‘infectiousness’ that I urge you to preserve.”

“I have often said that here in Rome, Filipino women are ‘smugglers’ of faith! Because wherever they go to work, they sow the faith,” he said.

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