The early history of the Catholic Church in South Sumatra began when Jesuit Father J. van Meurs arrived in 1887 in Tanjung Sakti Village, Bengkulu district. The seed of Catholicism started growing in 1890: eight children were baptized and three became catechumens. In order to help the pastoral service, Jesuit Brother Vester came in March 1891 and took part in spreading Catholicism.
Unfortunately, on Aug. 8, 1891, Father van Maeurs died in the village and Brother Vester moved to Maumere on Flores Island. However, in June 1894, Jesuit Father W.L. Jannisen and Brother Zinken arrived in the village to continue the mission. As a result, the number of Catholics increased at 200, and the first Sacrament of Confirmation was administered by Bishop Staal from Batavia in 1897.
Even though having a bright future, the mission in the village was stopped, and Father Jannisen was transferred to Padang, West Sumatra, in Nov. 1898. However, he sometimes still visited the village to maintain the Catholics' faith. In the following years, the mission spread to Bengkulu, Palembang and surrounding areas.
On June 30, 1911, the Holy See issued a decree about separation of the Apostolic Prefecture of Sumatra - which was based in Padang - from the Apostolic Vicariate of Batavia. The first apostolic perfect was Capuchin Bishop Libertus Cluts. The year 1914 became the hardest time for the first Catholics to maintain their faith since other religions tried to convert Catholics in the village. However, Capuchin Father Sigebertus, Mr J.C. Kielstra, and seven Mercy nuns worked hard to stop such faith conversion. In Aug. 1920, Father Mathias Barns came to replace Father Sigebertus who was transfered to Padang. Finally, the works of Capuchins ended when the Sacred Heart of Jesus priests came to the village.
On Dec. 27, 1923, the Holy See separated South Sumatra from Sumatra Apostolic Prefecture - which was known as Padang Apostolic Prefecture - and changed it into Bengkulu Apostolic Prefecture. The reason was that the village served as the main missionary post in Bengkulu. Sacred Heart of Jesus Father H.L. Smeets was appointed Apostolic Prefect of Bengkulu on May 28, 1928. The first Sacred Heart of Jesus missionaries arrived in the village including Father H. J. D. Oort; Father K. van Stekeleburg, and Brother Feliks van Langenberg. There were five missionary posts namely Tanjung Sakti, Palembang, Bengkulu, Tanjung Karang-Teluk Betung, and Jambi.
On Jan. 19, 1927, Sacred Heart Father Harrie Van Oort replaced Sacred Heart Father H. L Smeets, who returned to Europe. On Jan. 19, 1939, Father Mekkelholt became Apostolic Prefect.
As development of Apostolic Prefecture of Bengkulu, Palembang Vicariate Apostolic was established on June 13, 1939. Sacred Heart Father Henri Martin Mekkelholt was appointed the apostolic vicar.
However, World War II (1939-1945) undeniablly affected the Church. Many Catholics left their faith, and many priests and Religious became the victims. After the war ended, the situation in the Apostlic Vicariate of Palembang was relavitely safe. In November-December 1947, Father Hermelink, Brother Caspar, and Charles Borromeo nuns came to continue the pastoral works in Lahat.
On June 19, 1952, the Holy See declared Lampung the Apostolic Prefecture, separated from Palembang Apostolic Vicariate.
When Indonesian Church Hierarchy was established on Jan. 3, 1961, Palembang Apostolic Vicariate changed its status into diocese and Sacred Heart Bishop Menri Martin Mekkelholt was appointed its first bishop. Because of his bad health, he asked for an asisstant to the Holy See.
His request was fullfilled and Sacred Heart of Jesus Father J.H Soudant was chosen Coadjutor Bishop and ordained on June 29, 1961. He replaced Bishop Mekkelholt in April 1963 and served the diocese until May 20, 1997.
The Holy See appointed Sacred Heart of Jesus Father Aloysius Sudarso as auxiliary Bishop, who was ordained on March 25, 1994. When Bishop Soudant retired, Auxiliary Bishop Aloysius Sudarso was elevated to be the bishop of Palembang on May 20, 1997.
On July 1, 2003, Pope John Paul II, as stated in the daily Vatican newspaper L'osservatore Romano, announced that he established a new Church Provincial in Sumatra namely Palembang Archdiocese and chose Sacred Heart Bishop of Palembang Monsignor Aloysius Sudarso as its first metropolitan archbishop.
The area of Palembang archdiocese includes three provinces: South Sumatra, Jambi, and Bengkulu. Its sufragan dioceses include Tanjung Karang and Pangkal Pinang.
1. Province : South Sumatra
Position : 1°- 4° LS & 102°-106° BT Area : 113.339,07 square kilometers Population : 7.017.099 (2001) Tribals : Anak Dalam (Kubu), Abung Bunga Mayang, Enim, Kayu Ogan, Kisan, Komering, Lahat, Lematang, Meranjat, Musi, Musi Banyu Asing (Melayu), Musi Sekayu, Melayu Palembang, Ogan, Pasembah, Pegagan, Palembang, Ranau, Rawas, Semendo, Jawa, Sunda, Flores, Batak, Menado, Tionghoa
2. Province : Jambi Position : 0, 45°-2°45 LS & 102°-106° BT Area : 53, 53 square kilometers Population : 2.218.416 (2002) Tribals : Anak Dalam (Kubu), Batin, Jambi Melayu, Penghulu, Pindah, Manado, Batak, Jawa, Sunda, Flores, Tionghoa
3. Province : Bengkulu Position : 2°16 - 3°3 LS & 101°1 - 103°4 BT Area : 19.788,7 square kilometers Population : 1.570.645 jiwa (2003) Tribals : Bengkulu, Enggano, Muko-Muko, Pasembah, Pekal, Rejang, Jawa, Sunda, Irian, Maluku, Manado, Flores, Batak, Tionghoa