Federation in Europe and Asia: capital, Moscow. Although Christians have
been present at least from
the 9th century, the land of Rus (Russia and eastern Austria)
became officially Christian under the Grand Duke St. Vladimir in 988, with
a Greek hierarchy imported from Constantinople. In the schism of
Orthodoxy from the Catholic Church, Russia sided with Constantinople.
Government has always exercised some control over the Russian Church.
The communist government tried to undermine the Church’s influence,
and treated the Catholic Church with a special virulence. Between 1917
and 1959, many thousands of Catholic priests and monks, and 2.5 million
Catholic believers, were put to death throughout the USSR, not to
mention the greater number imprisoned or deported. Religious freedom was
restored in the Soviet Union after meetings between Soviet President
Gorbachev and Pope John Paul II. In 1991, following the break up of the USSR, the
Pope established two Latin-rite apostolic administrations in the Russian
Republic. There are presently four
apostolic administrations in the Russian Federation, with respective
jurisdictions over northern
European Russia (Moscow), southern European Russia (Saratov), western Siberia
(Novosibirsk), and eastern
According to a 1997 religion law,
all religions must be registered, on both national and local levels, to
be allowed to own property and publish religious materials. In Moscow, a
Catholic church confiscated under Stalin, has been returned, and was
reconsecrated late in 1999. Upgrading of four apostolic administrations
to dioceses provoked new tensions with Orthodox leaders. Catholics are .05% of the population.
Saudi Arabia – Monarchy covering 4/5 Arabian
peninsula: capital, Riyadh. The population is entirely Muslim. All other religions
are banned. Only foreign workers are Christians. The Church is under the
jurisdiction of the Arabia apostolic
vicariate. Catholics, all foreign workers, are 3.8% of the population.
Seychelles – Independent group of 92 islands in
the Indian Ocean: capital, Victoria.
Catholicism was introduced in the 18th century. An apostolic vicariate
was organized in 1852. All education was under Catholic sponsorship
until 1954. It has a one-party socialist system. 85% of the population
Singapore – Independent island republic off southern tip Malay
Peninsula: capital, Singapore. Christianity was introduced by Portuguese colonists
in 1511. The city of
Singapore was founded in 1819, and the first parish church built in 1846. Freedom of
religion is generally respected, but the arrest of Church workers, and
detention without trial, has occurred. Catholics are 3.7% the population.
Sri Lanka (Ceylon) – Island SE of
India; and independent socialist republic: capital, Colombo . First evangelized by Portuguese 16th century. 1638
Dutch forced Portuguese out of coastal areas, outlawed Catholicism,
banished priests, confiscated buildings, and forced conversions to
Calvinism. Blessed Joseph Vaz credited with reviving Catholicism almost
single-handedly at end of 17th century. Anti-Catholic laws
repealed by British 1806. Hierarchy established 1886. Country gained
independence 1948. Civil war between majority Sinhalese-dominated
government and minority Tamil revolutionaries has lasted nearly two
decades. Majority of people are Buddhist. Catholics make up 7%.
Syria – Arab socialist republic SW Asia:
capital, Damascus. Christianity was introduced in apostolic times. St.
Peter is the traditional founder of the
see at Antioch, before he went to Rome. Antioch became a center for monasticism
in the 4th century, and had an important school of
theology (in competition with the school at Alexandria), which, however,
became a hotbed of Nestorianism. Syria was conquered by Arab Muslims in 638,
and by Ottoman Turks in 1516, who remained in control till the end of
WWII. Melkites are Byzantine Syrians who remained in communion with Rome after the
Orthodox schism. In the time of the Crusades (1100-1268), Antioch had a Latin patriarch
(who moved to Rome at the end of the Crusader period). Syrian Catholics
are members of Armenian, Chaldean, Greek-Melkite, Latin, Maronite and Syrian rites.
They make up 2% of the population. [For an expanded view of the history
of the Church in Syria /library/CHISTORY/SYRIAHIS.HTM]
Taiwan – Democratic island state off the south coast of
China: capital, Taipei.
Attempts to introduce Christianity in the 17th century failed.
Another attempt in 1895 produced 1300 converts. Mission efforts were hampered
by the Japanese, who occupied the island after the Sino-Japanese war. Greater
progress was made among Chinese who emigrated to the island after the
takeover of the mainland in 1949. The hierarchy was established in 1952. Taiwanese
Catholics are a bridge to the Catholics in China. China insists there
will be no diplomatic
relations with the Vatican till the Vatican breaks relations with Taiwan.
Catholics are 1.3% of the population.
Tajikistan – Independent republic, formerly of
the USSR: capital, Dushanbe. Majority are Sunni Muslim. Few Catholics
were left when the Vatican established diplomatic
relations in 1996. A mission has been established there. Catholics are .03% of
Thailand (Siam) – Constitutional monarchy SE
Asia: capital, Bankok. Christianity was introduced by Portuguese traders early
in the 16th century.
Missionaries began evangelization in the 1660s. A seminary was organized
and a vicariate four years later. Persecution and death of some
missionaries ended evangelization in 1688. It was resumed in 1824. In 1881
missionaries were sent from there to Laos. The hierarchy was established in Thailand
in 1965. The first Thai cardinal was appointed in 1983. Catholics are .04% of
Turkey – Republic in Asia Minor and SE
Europe: capital, Ankara. Christian
communities existed there from apostolic times. It includes the sites of all seven
Ecumenical Councils before the Orthodox schism. Constantinople, to which
Constantine I moved the Roman seat of government, remains the see of the
Orthodox patriarch called "Ecumenical." The region was
Byzantine, except for the Latin occupation of Constantinople (1204-1261),
until it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1453. It became a republic
Christians are a minority among Muslims, Catholics a minority among
Orthodox, being .05% of the population.
Turkmenistan – Former republic of
USSR: capital, Ashgabat. It became independent in 1991. Almost entirely Sunni Muslim. Diplomatic relations
were established with the Vatican in 1996 and a mission organized in 1997. Catholics
are .02% of the population.
United Arab Emirates – Independent federation of states along
the Persian Gulf. The capital, Abu Dhabi, is the seat of the apostolic
vicariate which includes in addition Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia
and Yemen. Catholics in the United Arab Emirates make up .8% of the population.
Uzbekistan – Independent republic, formerly in
the USSR. The majority
of the population are Sunni Muslim. Catholics, who make up .01% of the
population, are centered in the capital, Tashkent.
Vietnam – Socialist republic in SE Asia:
capital, Hanoi. Catholicism was introduced in 1533, but mission work was
intermittent until 1615, when the Jesuits arrived.
Two vicariates were organized in 1659. A seminary was established in 1666, and two native
priests were ordained two years later. A congregation of native women religious
was formed in 1670 and is still active. Persecution broke out in 1698, three times
in the 18th century, and again in the 19th. 300,000
Catholics suffered persecution in the 50 years before the French secured religious liberty
for the Church. Most of the 117 beatified martyrs were killed in this period. When
the French were forced out in 1954, the North went Communist and fought for control
of the South. Catholics in the North fled to the South, where the Church continued to
develop during the war. After the war ended, the Communist government controlled
all aspects of Church life. There was some relaxation of control in the late 1980s. In
the 1990s, there was continued progress resulting from contacts between
the Vatican and the Vietnamese government. About
million, or 6.8%, of Vietnam’s 79 million inhabitants are Catholic.
Yemen – Republic
on the south
coast of the Arabian peninsula: capital, San'a. Formerly one of the poorest of Arab
countries, Yemen saw its economy soar in 1987 with the production of oil.
The republic was established in 1990, with the union between North
and South Yemen, and the first democratic elections were held in 1993. Of the
16.9 million inhabitants, the majority are Muslim, with small groups of
Hindus, Jews, and Christians. The early Christian presence there was wiped out in
century by Persia. In the 7th century the population became Muslim, which is the
state religion today. The Catholic presence is limited to foreign
workers, of which there are some 3,000, under the Arabia apostolic
vicariate. There are also about 20 sisters, members of the Missionaries
of Charity. In recent years, Church workers have experienced harassment
and three nuns were murdered. Diplomatic relations with the Vatican were established
in 1998. Catholics 4000, out of a population of 19 million.