Factbox: Catholicism in Sri Lanka
Pope Francis is visiting Sri Lanka on the first leg of his second trip to Asia. Here are key facts about the Catholic religion in the country:
Colombo: Pope Francis is visiting Sri Lanka on the first leg of his second trip to Asia. Here are key facts about the Catholic religion in the country:
Numbers: Around six percent of Sri Lanka`s 20 million people are Catholic. The country`s biggest religion is Buddhism, but it also has sizeable Hindu and Muslim minorities.
History: Christianity first came to Sri Lanka via 6th century Persian traders who built the island`s first church. But it was not until the Portuguese arrived nearly 1,000 years later in 1505 that it became widespread. Over the next century, missionaries spread Catholicism along the coast, where the faith still has its strongest hold.
Saints: Pope Francis will canonise Sri Lanka`s first saint, the 17th century missionary Joseph Vaz, during his visit to the island.
Previous papal visits: The first papal visit to Sri Lanka took place in 1970, when Pope Paul VI made a brief stopover at the airport to meet the faithful. Pope John Paul II visited in 1995, drawing hundreds of thousands of worshippers to a seafront mass in Colombo.