Island continent SE of Asia: capital, Canberra. The first Catholics were
the Irish under penal
servitude (1795-1804). Anglicanism was the unofficial state religion,
with Catholics being obliged to attend those services. Catholic priests
(among the prisoners) were forbidden to celebrate Mass. In 1803 they
were permitted to say Mass once a month, but then the privilege was withdrawn. When word of
the harsh treatment reached England,
Parliament sent two Catholic chaplains, and from that time (1820), the
Church began to organize. The country was officially removed from
mission status only in 1976. In 1998, the Vatican and representatives of
Australian Church signed document addressing a "crisis of faith" on the
continent. Catholics are 25.8% of population.
Cook Islands – Territory of New
evangelization began in 1821, resulting in a largely Protestant population.
Catholic missionary work began in 1894. The hierarchy was established in
Catholics are 15.7%.
Fiji – Independent island group in southwest
Pacific: capital, Suva. Marist
missionaries introduced Catholicism after Methodism was already established.
An apostolic prefecture was organized in 1863, and the hierarchy in 1966. Catholics
French Polynesia – French territory in
the South Pacific: capital, Papeete. Evangelization began in 1838, in
the Marquesas Islands. A vicariate was set up in
1848, but there was no real progress till the rulers were baptized in 1853. Several
persecutions drove missionaries from the islands. There were isolated attempts to
evangelize Tahiti in the 17th and 18th centuries.
organized attempt was begun in 1831. A vicariate was set up in 1848. By
1908 the Church was firmly established, despite
Protestant opposition. By the 1960s, more than
95% of Tahiti was Catholic. 40% of the population of the islands as a
whole is Catholic.
Guam – Island belonging to the US in the SW
Pacific: capital, Agana. The first Mass was offered
in 1521, in the Mariana Islands. The Islands were evangelized by Jesuits and others
from 1668. The first native Micronesian bishop was ordained in 1970. The
Diocese of Agana, formerly subject to San Francisco, was made a metropolitan see in
1984. Catholics are 80% of the population.
Kiribati – Former British colony (Gilbert Islands), independent
since 1979: capital, Bairiki on Tarawa. Christianity was brought in 1888 by French Missionaries of
Heart. A vicariate was organized in 1897. The hierarchy was established 1966. Catholics
are 54.2% of the population.
Marshall Islands – Island republic in central
Pacific: capital, Majura. Formerly
administered by US, the Islands became an. independent nation in 1991.
An apostolic prefecture was erected in 1993. Catholics are 12.5% of the population.
Micronesia – Federated states of
Micronesia in SW Pacific: capital, Palikir.
Formerly under US administration, it became independent in 1991. Effective
evangelization began late in the 1880s. Diplomatic relations with Holy See
were established in 1994. Catholics are 53% of the population.
Nauru – Independent republic W Pacific:
capital, Yaren. It belongs to the Tarawa and Nauru
Diocese (Kiribati). Diplomatic relations with the Holy See were
established in 1992.
Catholics are 37% of the population.
New Caledonia – French possession of several islands east of
Queensland, Australia: capital, Noumea. Catholicism was introduced in 1843.
A vicariate was organized in 1847. The hierarchy was established in 1966.
57.8% of the population is Catholic.
New Zealand – Parliamentary democracy
in the SW Pacific: capital, Wellington. The first
Catholic settler landed in 1828. Ten years later the first priest arrived with
seven Marist Brothers. Irish peasant immigrants were pioneers of Catholic
colonization, and French priests were its apostles. In 1842, New Zealand
became a vicariate. In 1848, it was divided into two dioceses. In 1869, a third diocese
was formed, all three becoming an ecclesiastical province in 1896, separate
from Australia. Work among the Maoris began in 1881. The first Maori bishop
was consecrated in 1988.
Catholics make up 12% of the population.