Christianity in Equatorial Guinea
Christianity in Equatorial Guinea dates back to pre-independence, when Equatorial Guinea was a colony of Portugal and Spain. Today almost 90 per cent of the population are Christian. The majority are Roman Catholics, though there are also a few thousand Methodists and Presbyterians.
History of Christianity in Equatorial Guinea
Roman Catholicism reached Equatorial Guinea with the Portuguese in the late 15th century. The colony was ceded to Spain in 1778. From the mid-nineteenth-century there were various Protestant missions, such as Baptist missions from the West Indies (in 1841), Primitive Methodists from England, and Presbyterians (in 1850) from the United States. An 1853 concordat between Spain and the Vatican declared Catholicism to be the official religion, and led to some expulsion or non-recognition of competing faiths. Presbyterians were not recognised until 1906, and Protestant schools were not allowed under the Spanish rule. All Protestant churches were closed in 1952.
After independence there were brief hopes for religious freedom. However, there was severe persecution of Christians (associated with colonialist history) under the rule of Macías Nguema, president from 1968 to 1979, who wanted to be recognised as messiah. Tens of thousands of Christians fled the country to Gabon or Cameroon.
After Nguema's overthrow, efforts were made to re-establish the Roman Catholic church in Equatorial Guinea. A papal visit in February 1982 was followed later that year by the establishment of the country as a Roman Catholic province with its own archdiocese of Malabo, and the dioceses of Bata and Ebebiyin. However, there are few national priests, and most pastoral work is carried out by Spanish priests, monks and nuns.
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