Church in Sri Lanka
  • Capital:
  • Colombo
  • Population:
  • 20 million
  • Catholic:
  • 1.35 million (7 %)
  • Diocese:
  • 1 archdiocese, 11 dioceses
  • Major religion:
  • Theravada Buddhism 70%, Hinduism 13%, Islam 10%
According to some records Persian merchants who came to Ceylon around 5th century had a Christian settlement and a chapel in the ancient capital of Anuradhapura. A 5th century decorative baptismal pond and ancient crosses excavated also show early presence of Christians in the island nation.

However, the evangelization history starts with the arrival of a Portuguese fleet in Colombo area on 15 November 1505, starting a period of mission led by Franciscan friars. The growth was significant that when Cochin diocese (southern India) was created in 1558, Sri Lanka was made part of it. During Portuguese rule (1605-1658) Sri Lanka was a fertile mission land for Jesuits, the Dominicans, and the Augustinians to work.
By then, the Dutch East India Company was already active in the Arabian Sea and the king of Kandy sought the Dutch help in ousting the Portuguese. They succeeded ending the Portuguese rule in Sri Lanka in 1658.Ê But the Dutch feared the Island's Catholic might be loyal to the Portuguese. The Dutch rule (1658-1796) banned all Catholic practices, banished all Catholic priests and ordered capital punishment to anyone harboring a Catholic priest. They also banned catholic rites and wanted all services be conducted in their Calvinist rites.

For almost three decades Catholics continued without a priest until Father Joseph Vaz from Goa reached the island disguised as coolie in 1687.Ê People attending services led by him were initially arrested and jailed but slowly local kings accepted him because he had no backing of the Portuguese and was apolitical in his actions. He died in 1711.

  • Capital:
  • Colombo
  • Population:
  • 20 million
  • Catholic:
  • 1.35 million (7 %)
  • Diocese:
  • 1 archdiocese, 11 dioceses
  • Major religion:
  • Theravada Buddhism 70%, Hinduism 13%, Islam 10%
Missioners from India served the Island for a period of 155 years, from the time Father Vaz came to Sri Lanka (1687) until the arrival of the first European missionaries in the British period (1842).

The Vicariate Apostolic of Ceylon was created in 1834 and it was divided into Colombo and Jaffnain 1847. When the hierarchy was established in Sri Lanka in 1887, Colombo became an archdiocese.

Sri Lanka houses 1,354,000 Catholics, representing some seven percent of the population of 20 million.

The Catholics are organized into 12 dioceses, including an archdiocese.

UCAN Directory
Dioceses
UCAN Directory

Central Province

Eastern Province

North Central Province

North Western Province

Northern Province

Sabaragamuwa Province

Southern Province

Uva Province

Western Province