|Philippine Independent Church|
Arms of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente: "Scripture, Charity, Knowledge, Liberty"
|Primate||Ephraim Fajutagana y Servanez, Obispo Máximo XII|
|Associations||National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Christian Conference of Asia
World Council of Churches
|Headquarters||National Cathedral of the Holy Child,
1500 Taft Avenue
|Separated from||Catholic Church in the Philippines|
The Philippine Independent Church (officially Spanish: Iglesia Filipina Independiente, IFI; Latin: Libera Ecclesia Philippina; colloquially known as the Aglipayan Church) is an independent Christian denomination in the form of a national church in the Philippines. Its schism from the Catholic Church was proclaimed in 1902 by the members of the Unión Obrera Democrática Filipina due to the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos by Spanish priests and the execution of nationalist José Rizal under Spanish colonial rule.
Isabelo de los Reyes was one of the initiators of the separation, and suggested that former Catholic priest Gregorio Aglipay be the head of the church. It is also known as the "Aglipayan Church" after its first Supreme Bishop, Gregorio Aglipay, who also later became a Freemason in May 1918.
The Catholic Church under the pontificate of Leo XIII instructed the Archbishop of Manila, Bernardino Nozaleda y Villa, O.P., to excommunicate those who initiated the schism. Since 1960, the church has been in full communion with the Episcopal Church in the United States (and through it with the entire Anglican Communion).
Commonly shared beliefs in the Aglipayan Church are the rejection of the Apostolic Succession solely to the Petrine Papacy, the acceptance of priestly ordination of women, the free option of clerical celibacy, the tolerance to join Freemasonry groups, non-committal in belief regarding transubstantiation and Real Presence of the Eucharist, and the advocacy of contraception and same-sex civil rights among its members. Many saints canonised by Rome after the schism are also not officially recognised by the Aglipayan church and its members.
The church's official name is "Iglesia Filipina Independiente", in English, "Philippine Independent Church". Members of the church variously call different types of terms, namely its acronym as IFI, or in various Philippine languages, such as Ilocano: Siwawayawaya nga Simbaan ti Filipinas; Tagalog: Malayang Simbahan ng Pilipinas; and Kinaray-a: Simbahan Hilway nga Pilipinhon. The colloquial term Aglipayan Church, along with the names and also the "Philippine Independent Catholic Church" "Filipinista Church" as well as "Rizalino Church", are also often interchangeably used.
Although many Spanish friars protested atrocities against indigenous Filipinos by the Spanish colonial government and military, clergymen were often themselves guilty of abuse. Some blocked the ascent of native Filipinos in the Catholic hierarchy, and claimed vast estates from landless farmers. Cases of sexual abuse of women were widely known, and priests were known to sire illegitimate children. Anák ni Padre Dámaso (child of Father Dámaso), alluding to a character in one of José Rizal's novels, became a cliché or stereotype to refer to an illegitimate child, especially that of a priest. The executions of priests Mariano Gómez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (collectively known as the Gomburza) at the hands of Spanish authorities is said to have had a deep effect on Rizal and subsequently the 1896 Philippine Revolution.
Gregorio Aglipay was an activist and a Roman Catholic priest from Ilocos Norte who would later be excommunicated by then Archbishop of Manila Bernardino Nozaleda y Villa for fomenting schism with the Bishop of Rome. During the brief interlude between independence from the Spanish and occupation by the United States, Isabelo de los Reyes (also known as Don Belong) and Aglipay acted to reform the Filipino Catholic clergy. They founded the Philippine Independent Church in 1902. The new church rejected the spiritual authority of the Pope (then Pope Leo XIII) and abolished the celibacy requirement for priests, who were then allowed to marry. All of its clergy were former Catholic priests.
The church drew upon the Masonic Code for concepts of theology and worship. It was supported by Miguel Morayta, the Grand Master of the Spanish Orient Lodge of Freemasonry in Madrid. Aglipay was also a Mason. The historian John N. Schumacher contends that Morayta and other non-Filipino laymen who pushed Aglipay toward schism from the Catholic Church were motivated more by resentment of friars' activities in the Philippines than nationalism.
Later the newly independent Church reformed the Latin Tridentine liturgy, adopting the model of Anglican vernacular reform. The Eucharist has been said in Spanish (and sometimes Portuguese) since the earliest days of the Church.
Visiting other churches while traveling abroad, Aglipay developed his theology, coming to reject the divinity of Jesus and the concept of the Trinity and becoming theologically Unitarian. Other Church officials refused to accept this revised theology. Aglipay's unitarian and progressive theological ideas were evident in his novenary, Pagsisiyam sa Birhen sa Balintawak, 1925 and its English translation, Novenary of the Motherland (1926).
At the end of the 19th century, Filipino nationalism emerged, preceding the struggles of other colonies in Asia, such as India and French Indochina. Spain's last remaining colonies in the Americas, Cuba and Puerto Rico, were fighting for secession at the same time. After the execution of prominent native-born clergy such as the Gomburza at the hands of the Spanish royal authorities, Church reforms became a facet of the Philippine independence movement.
Winning large numbers of adherents in its early years because of its nationalist roots, Aglipayan numbers decreased due to factionalism and doctrinal disagreements. Some factions, tending towards more radical cryptoprotestant reforms, formally joined other denominations including the Episcopal Church and the American Unitarians. The definitive growth limiting factor was the decision of the American government, after the Spanish-American War, to award the seized Catholic church buildings of the nascent Philippine Independent Church — the majority of which had become Aglipayan during the revolutionary period — to the Roman Catholic Church.
Today, the Philippine Independent Church has concordat relationships with the Old Catholics and the Anglican Communion. Aglipayans in the Philippines number at least 2 million members, with most from the northern part of Luzon (especially in the Ilocos Region); congregations are also found in North America, Europe and Asia. The church is the second-largest single Christian denomination in the country after the Roman Catholic Church (some 80.2% of the population), comprising about 2.6% of the total population of the Philippines.
The spiritual head of the church is called Obispo Máximo (Supreme Bishop); the incumbent is Ephraim S. Fajutagana, Obispo Máximo XII.
Most of the members of the church, like the founders Aglipay and de los Reyes, are political activists, often involved in progressive groups and advocating nationalism, anti-imperialism, democracy, as well as opposing extrajudicial killings. They have often been victims of forced disappearances and been branded as leftist by the government for being aligned with progressive groups, specifically after Obispo Máximo IX Alberto Ramento was killed for being an anti-government critic.
The Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB) consists of all serving and retired bishops. Its main tasks include maintaining and defining doctrinal orthodoxy, the adoption and prescription of liturgy, and the overall pastoral and moral guidance to the faithful. There are also regional episcopal conferences:
The Council of Priests (COP) is the group of delegates to the General Assembly that are entirely priests. It elects a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and a Secretary that have each terms of three years. The Council of Priests promotes the welfare of the clergy and represents their concerns to the General Assembly.
The National Lay Council is composed of the men, women and youth delegates of every diocese represented in the General Assembly. It works to promote and enhance the participation of the laity in the governance and general affairs of the Church. There are also several sectoral groups, such as the Women of the Philippine Independent Church (WOPIC), Youth of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (YIFI), and Laymen of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (LIFI).
Melchora Aquino, "Mother of the Philippine Revolution"
Felipe Buencamino, co-author of the Malolos Constitution.
The church is led by the Obispo Máximo or Supreme Bishop, similar to a presiding bishop in other denominations. The current Obispos Máximos is the Most Rev Ephraím Fajutagana y Servanez and was elected on May 10, 2011, at Bayview Park Hotel, Manila.
In September 1903, José Rizal was canonised by Aglipay due to the nature of his death, however his sainthood was rescinded in the 1950s due to a nationwide controversy over Rizal having alleged rejected his earlier secularism and apostate views against the Catholic Church. Though possibly true, the recantation is also alleged to have been coerced by Jesuits forcing him to avoid religious condemnation, or even a hoax devised by Catholic authorities.
Presently, some Aglipayan churches in provincial districts remain loyal to the concept that José Rizal is an Agliyapan saint, as evidenced by the nomenclature Rizalino Church or Rizalinos adopted by some members. It is also notable that Rizal is currently not proposed for canonisation by the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, yet remains a popular patriot and historical figure amongst predominantly Catholic Filipinos.
The Philippine Independent Church is currently the second-largest Christian denomination in the Philippines after the Roman Catholic Church. Most members of the Church are from the northern part of Luzon, especially in the Ilocos Region where Obispo Máximo Aglipay was born. The Church has 40 dioceses, including the Diocese of the Eastern and Western United States and Canada. However, due to a lack of priests, many parishes in the United States must depend on lay leaders.
By virtue of its concordat relations with the Anglican churches, the Philippine Independent Church is given the privilege to send delegates to the Council of Churches of East Asia (CCEA) as organised by the Anglican Provinces in East Asia in 1962. Since 1964, IFI bishops have also been regular participants of the Lambeth Conference.
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