The New Evangelization - Africa










Ethiopia –   A people’s republic in NE Africa: capital, Addis Ababa. It was evangelized from Egypt in the 4th century, with a bishop of its own by 340. Like its parent Church in Egypt, the Ethiopian Church refused to accept the Council of Chalcedon and was deemed monophysite. In 1846, small portion of the Ethiopian Church returned to communion with Rome. In 1937 an apostolic delegation was set up in Addis Ababa, and various jurisdictions were organized. Northern jurisdictions follow the Alexandrian rite, and southern follow the Latin rite. The first Ethiopian cardinal was named in 1985. Catholics have good relations with Orthodox and Protestants there. Ethiopian constitution calls for religious liberty, but treatment of Church varies in different areas. Catholics .8% of population.

Gabon - Republic in W Africa: capital, Libreville. Effective evangelization began only in 1881. Hierarchy established 1955. Late in 1990s, Rome and government signed agreement on rights of Church in society. The Constitution respects the freedom of worship in Gabon, but has rejected requests from at least 10 religious groups. Catholics are 55% of population.


Gambia - Republic in NW Africa: capital, Banjui. Christianity brought by Portuguese in 15th century. Effective evangelization from 1822. Church under apostolic vicariate until 1931     . Hierarchy established 1957.  Catholics make up only 2%. There is no state religion in Gambia, but the majority of residents are Muslim.


Ghana - Republic in W Africa: capital, Accra. Missionary efforts date back to 15th century, with discovery by Portuguese. However, hindered by slave trade and other factors. An apostolic prefecture set up 1879, and effective evangelization began 1880. Hierarchy established 1950. Since independence, tensions have developed between Church and state. The constitution guarantees freedom of worship and state schools respect religious rights of all students. Catholics are 12% of population.


Guinea - Republic in W Africa: capital, Conakry. Uneven missionary effort followed Portuguese exploration, with organized effort dating from 1877. Hierarchy established 1955. Independence from France 1958, when Catholic schools nationalized and mission work restricted. Foreign missionaries expelled in 1967. In 1971, archbishop sentenced to life in prison for conspiring against government. He was released 1979. Private schools again authorized 1984. The government of Guinea shows a preference for Muslims, who are a majority, but respect freedom of worship and maintain good relations with other religious groups. Catholics 3%.


Guinea-Bissau - Republic in W Africa: capital, Bissau. Former Portuguese Guinea. Christianity first introduced second half of 15th century, though missionary effort hampered by slave trade. Modern evangelization began 1933. Apostolic prefecture became first diocese in 1977. The government respects freedom of worship, but the Catholic Church enjoys privileges because of social and historical importance. Catholics 9.2% of population.


Ivory Coast - Republic in W Africa: capital, Abidjan. Systematic evangelism by Holy Ghost Fathers from 1895. First native priests ordained 1934. Hierarchy established 1955. First native cardinal in 1983. Contains continent’s biggest cathedral, consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1990 on president’s agreement to build adjacent hospital and youth center. Christian communities are increasing rapidly in the Ivory Coast. Catholics are 17% of population


Kenya - Republic in E Africa: capital, Nairobi. Systematic Catholic evangelization by Holy Ghost Missionaries began 1889, 40 years after Protestants began. Hierarchy established 1953. Kenya is currently drafting a new constitution, a process that has led to tension between various religious communities. Catholics 24% total population.


Lesotho - Constitutional monarchy in SE Africa: capital, Maseru. After independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho was governed for 20 years by an authoritarian regime, followed by a military regime. In 1993, it chose a more democratic form of government. Their King, Letsie III, recently married, broke the royal tradition of polygamy by announcing he would have just one wife. He is a Catholic. First Catholic missionaries (Oblates of Mary Immaculate) in area 1862. Apostolic prefecture 1894. Hierarchy established 1951. In 1990s Catholics pressed government for democratic reforms. The constitution includes freedom of worship and allows tax benefits to registered religious groups. Catholics make up 51% of a population of 2 million.


Liberia - Republic in W Africa: capital, Monrovia. Intermittent missionary influence from 16th century. Systematic evangelization from 1906 by Society of African Missions. Hierarchy established 1982. A conflict 1989-1996 resulted deaths of 15,000 and displaced a million. Archbishop Michael Francis was forced to evacuate. Most Church institutions destroyed in Monrovia. All religious groups must be registered with the government. Catholics 5% of population.


Libya - Arab State in N Africa: capital, Tripoli. Early Christianity displaced by spread of Islam from 630. Almost all Catholics are foreign workers. Restrictions on religious orders lifted, to allow health workers in, after UN embargo. Libya maintains a restricted form of freedom of worship. Islam is taught in schools. Libya established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1997. Catholics 1.8% of population.


Madagascar - Republic off E coast: capital, Antananarivo. Fruitless missionary effort until Jesuits came in 1845. Apostolic prefecture set up 1850 and apostolic vicariate put in charge of Holy Ghost Fathers in 1898. First native bishop 1936. Hierarchy established 1955. Today the Church runs hundreds of schools and dozens of orphanages, and thought to be largest landowner after government. Catholic residents of Madagascar have recently requested to be officially recognized as a religious organization. Catholics 28%.


Malawi - Republic in E Africa: capital, Lilongwe. Missionary work (16th - 17th centuries) begun by Jesuits ineffective until end of 19th century when White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa) came. Vicariate in 1897. Hierarchy 1959. In 1990s Church helped force free elections and toppled undemocratic government. Catholics 28% of population.


Mali - Republic in W Africa: capital, Bamako. Catholicism introduced late in 19th century. Little success with Muslim population. Vicariate 1921, hierarchy in 1955. In recent years, Church has promoted role of women in society. Catholics make up .2% of the population and have cordial relations with Muslims. The constitution recognizes freedom of worship and defines the country as secular.


Mauritania - Islamic republic in NW Africa: capital, Nouakchott. Almost all Catholics are foreign workers. Fundamentalist Muslims seen as threat to Church there. The constitution establishes that the country is an Islamic republic and acknowledges Islam as the religion of its citizens and of the state. Catholics .2% of population.


Morocco – A constitutional monarchy in NW Africa: capital, Rabat. Christianity was introduced there in the 3rd century. It survived rule by the Vandals in the 5th and 6th centuries, then by the Visigoths, but after the Arab Muslim victory in the late 7th century, it almost entirely disappeared. Mission attempts began in the 13th century, with the appointment of a Franciscan friar and papal legate as Bishop of Morocco. The succession lasted till 1566, when the see was suppressed and its jurisdiction was turned over to Seville. From the 15th century, Spain and Portugal both laid claim to the country. In 1911 it became a French protectorate, with a Spanish sphere of influence. Both recognized Morocco’s sovereignty in 1956. Although the hierarchy was established there in 1955, evangelization had not been successful. The state religion is Islam, from which conversion is forbidden, although the country guarantees freedom of worship. Pope John Paul II visited in 1985. Catholics, all foreign residents, are about .07% of a population of 29 million.


Mozambique - Republic in SE Africa: capital, Maputo. Christianity was introduced here, at first sporadically, by Portuguese settlers early in the 16th century. Beginning in 1560, for the next two hundred years there was a steady flow of missionaries, the Jesuits, followed by Dominicans, St John of God Brothers, Augustinians, Franciscans and Capuchins. In the 18th century, the Jesuits were expelled from the country by the Portuguese government, and there was a decline in evangelization. From 1783, Religious Congregations began arrive: Salesians, Franciscans, and Divine Word missionaries. Relations between Church and state varied over the next century and a half. After 1940, a concordat was signed with the Holy See saw the hierarchy established and the creation of two dioceses and one archdiocese. Evangelization became organized and gained momentum. Missions, schools, and dispensaries were built. Missionaries other than Portuguese began to arrive, and two native bishops were ordained in 1975. Then, with independence from Portugal, came 16 years of civil war, during which evangelization came almost to a standstill. Many missionaries were forced to leave and missions were closed. During the war, the Church survived by building small Christian communities, while working for peace. When the war ended in 1992, the Church re-opened her missions and has flourished since, with high Mass attendance and a boom in vocations. Mozambique guarantees freedom of worship. Half of the population states that it professes no religious faith. Religious instruction in schools is forbidden. Catholics are 23% of the population.

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