Catholic Church in Sri Lanka

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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
 Western 637,729
 North Western 278,755
 Northern 162,849
 Central 62,476
 Eastern 46,792

The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka (Sinhala: Sri Lankavay Katholika Sabhava) 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]

In 1995, at a ceremony in Colombo, Pope John Paul II beatified Father Joseph Vaz, an 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 history[edit]

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 history[edit]

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 churches[edit]

St. Lucia's Cathedral, Colombo
Dioceses Church Type Town
Anuradhapura St. Joseph’s Cathedral Cathedral Anuradhapura
Badulla St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Badulla
Batticaloa St. Mary's Cathedral Cathedral Batticaloa
Chilaw St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Chilaw
Colombo St. Lucia’s Cathedral Cathedral Colombo
St. Mary's Church, Negombo Church Negombo
St. Sebastian's Church, Negombo Church Negombo
Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka National Shrine Tewatta, Ragama
St. Anthony’s National Shrine Archdiocesan Shrine Colombo
Galle St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Galle
Jaffna St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Jaffna
Kandy St. Anthony’s Cathedral Cathedral Kandy
Kurunegala St. Anne’s Cathedral Cathedral Kurunegala
Mannar St. Sebastian’s Cathedral Cathedral Mannar
Ratnapura Ss. Peter & Paul Cathedral Cathedral Ratnapura
Trincomalee St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Trincomalee

See also[edit]


  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 links[edit]