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Roman Catholicism in Sri Lanka

Roman Catholics 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
Roman Catholicism

The Roman 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.

In 1995, at a ceremony in Colombo, Pope John Paul II beatified Father Joseph Vaz, an early missionary to the country, who was known as the Apostle of Ceylon. On 17 September 2014, Pope Francis approved the vote to have him declared a saint. [2]


  • Early History 1
  • Modern history 2
  • Important churches 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early History

Records of ancient travelers to Sri Lanka reports 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 5th century.[3] The Persian cross excavated in Anuradhapura belonging to the 5th century and the decorative baptismal pond excavated near Vavuniya proves presence of Christians in Sri Lanka during the early period Anuradhapura Kingdom. Two crosses excavated around Anuradhapura in 1913 said to be identical to the cross at St Thomas Mount near Chennai.[4]

Modern history

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 permission of the king of Kotte, Dharma Parakramabahu IX, Alimeida 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 in the western and northwestern coast, where in some places Catholics are half the population.

Important churches

St. Sebastian's Church in Negombo
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 Kotahena
Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka National Shrine Tewatta, Ragama
St. Anthony’s National Shrine National Shrine Kochchikade
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


  1. ^ "A3 : Population by religion according to districts, 2012". Census of Population & Housing, 2011. Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka. 
  2. ^ [1] Zenit News Agency Article
  3. ^ Mahavamsa Translated by Wilhelm Geiger, Chapter 10
  4. ^ Christmas yesteryear Daily News (Sri Lanka) Article


  • history of Catholicism in Sri Lanka

External links

  • The Catholic Church in Sri Lanka by
  • Profile of the Catholic church in Sri Lanka
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