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
 North Western278,755

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]

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, Anuradhapura Cathedral Anuradhapura
Badulla St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Badulla
Batticaloa St. Mary's Cathedral Cathedral Batticaloa
Chilaw St. Mary’s Cathedral, Chilaw Cathedral Chilaw
Colombo St. Lucia’s Cathedral Cathedral & seat of the Archbishop Colombo
Galle St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Galle
Jaffna St. Mary’s Cathedral Cathedral Jaffna
Kandy St. Anthony’s Cathedral, Kandy Cathedral Kandy
Kurunegala St. Anne’s Cathedral, Kurunegala Cathedral Kurunegala
Mannar St. Sebastian’s Cathedral Cathedral Mannar
Ratnapura St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Ratnapura Cathedral Ratnapura
Trincomalee St. Mary’s Cathedral, Trincomalee Cathedral Trincomalee

National Shrines[edit]

Dioceses Church Type Town
Colombo Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka Shrine & Basilica Tewatta, Ragama
Colombo St. Anthony’s National Shrine Shrine & minor Basilica Colombo
Mannar Shrine of Our Lady of Matara Shrine Matara
Mannar Shrine of Our Lady of Madhu Shrine Madhu
Kandy St. Anthony's Church, Wahakotte Shrine Wahakotte

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]