(Photo courtesy of Barangay South Triangle Facebook page)

MANILA – The Philippines topped the list of countries with the most number of baptisms of young children.

Citing data from the Catholic News Service, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news website reported on Wednesday that the country recorded more than 1.6 million baptisms of children under the age of 7 at the end of 2019, based on the Statistical Yearbook of the Church.

It was followed by Mexico with over 1.48 million, Brazil with more than 1.05 million, the United States with 595,286; and Colombia with 442,396.

The yearbook provides separate statistics for the baptism of people above 7 year old.

Also, the Philippines ranked third in the world with the most baptized Catholics at 89 million.

Brazil topped the list with 177 million baptized Catholics and was followed by Mexico with 115.5 million.

Fourth on the list is the US with 74 million while Italy ranked fifth with 57.8 million.

The Annuario Pontificio, which was released in March, contains figures valid as of Dec. 31, 2019, about every Vatican office, as well as every diocese and religious order in the world.

The number of Catholics has increased by 16 million in a year to 1.34 billion, holding steady at about 17.7 percent of the global population.

The growth was also spread across continents except for Europe.

In 2019, 48.1 percent of the world’s Catholics were living in the Americas, followed by Europe with 21.2 percent, Africa with 18.7 percent, about 11 percent in Asia, and 0.8 percent in Oceania.

The Philippines is commemorating on Wednesday the 500th anniversary of the first Christian baptism in the country.

On April 14, 1521, Cebu chieftain Datu Humabon, and 800 of their followers were baptized Catholics by Fr. Pedro de Valderrama.

The baptism came a week after the arrival of the Spanish expedition headed by Ferdinand Magellan on Cebu Island.

The Portuguese explorer gave Queen Juana an image of the child Jesus as a gift and remembrance of the occasion. A large cross was erected to mark the baptismal site. (PNA)