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The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the pope in Rome. The country comes under the province of Colombo and is made up of 12 dioceses including one archdiocese. There are approximately 1.2 million Catholics in Sri Lanka representing around 6.1% of the total population (according to the 2012 census).[2]

Sri Lankan Catholics
The Anuradhapura cross has 5th century history of Christians in Sri Lanka.
The Anuradhapura cross has 5th century history of Christians in Sri Lanka.
Total population
1,237,038 (2012)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 North Western278,755

In 1995, at a ceremony in Colombo, Pope John Paul II beatified Father Joseph Vaz (originally, José Vaz), a Portuguese early missionary to the country, who is known as the Apostle of Ceylon. On 17 September 2014, Pope Francis approved the vote to have him declared a saint.[3] Pope Francis canonized Father Joseph Vaz on Galle Face Green, in Colombo on 14 January 2015.

Early historyEdit

Records of ancient travelers to Sri Lanka report that a separate area was allocated for Christians in the ancient capital Anuradhapura and there was a Christian chapel used by the Persian merchants who came to Ceylon in around the 5th century.[4] The Persian cross excavated in Anuradhapura belonging to the 5th century and the decorative baptismal pond excavated near Vavuniya prove the presence of Christians in Sri Lanka during the early period of the Anuradhapura Kingdom. Two crosses excavated around Anuradhapura in 1913 are said to be identical to the cross at St Thomas Mount near Chennai.[5]

Modern historyEdit

On 15 November 1505 a Portuguese fleet commanded by Lourenço de Almeida, having been driven by a storm to the shores of Sri Lanka, landed in Colombo. With the permission of the king of Kotte, Dharma Parakramabahu IX, Almeida erected a trade station and a small chapel in Colombo. The chapel was dedicated to St Lawrence. Franciscan Friar Vicente, the chaplain of the fleet, celebrated Mass. This is the first record of a Catholic Mass on Sri Lankan soil. Over the next few centuries, Portuguese, Dutch, and Irish missionaries spread the religion in Sri Lanka, most notably on the western and northwestern coast, where in some places Catholics are half the population.

Important churchesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "A3 : Population by religion according to districts, 2012". Census of Population & Housing, 2011. Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka.
  2. ^ "Census of Population and Housing 2011".
  3. ^ [1] Zenit News Agency Article
  4. ^ "Chapter X".
  5. ^ Christmas yesteryear Archived 2007-09-30 at the Wayback Machine Daily News (Sri Lanka) Article


External linksEdit