Ecuador – Republic on west coast of South
America: capital, Quito.
Christianity was introduced in the 1530s, the first diocese 1545. Highly
influential during colonial period, the Church was practically
enslaved by constitution enacted (1824) after independence from
Spain. Some improvement later in century, but the Church
seriously restricted until relations with state redefined in
1937. Today's challenge is continued evangelization of restive
Quechua Indians, who make up 40% of the population. Catholics 92% of
El Salvador – A republic in South
America: capital, San Salvador. Evangelization
followed the Spanish occupation in the 1520s. Independence from
Spain was declared in 1821, and the country was annexed to Mexico.
It again declared independence in 1841 and became a republic in 1856. In recent years,
the Church suffered violence at the hands of combatants in a long civil war
(1980-1992), the end of which Church leaders help to achieve.
Catholics are 79% of the population.
Falkland Islands – A British colony off
the southern tip of
South America: capital, Port Stanley. The islands are also called
Islas Malvinas by Argentina, which disputes
England’s sovereignty. Catholics are 10% of the population.
French Guiana – A French possession on NE coast South
America. Catholicism was introduced in the 17th century.
A diocese was established in 1956 in the capital, Cayenne. Catholics
are 80% of the population.
Grenada – An independent island in
the West Indies: capital, St. George's. Catholics are 54% of the
Guadeloupe – A French possession in
the Leeward Islands of the West Indies: capital, Basse-Terre. Catholicism
was introduced in the 16th century.
Catholics are 95% of the population.
Guatemala – A republic in Central
America: capital, Guatemala City. Evangelization began with the Spanish
occupation in 1524. A diocese for all
Central America was established in 1534. It was annexed to Mexico
seceded in 1823, joined the Central American Federation in 1825, and
became independent in 1839. In 1870, after a liberal revolution,
a concordat with the Church was repudiated. Religious orders
were suppressed, their property seized, priests and religious exiled,
and schools secularized. Freedom was subsequently restored to the
Church. In the 20th century, there was a civil war
lasting 36 years
(till 1996). During this period, Church leaders spoke out
against atrocities and suffered persecution. The peace process
was orchestrated in part by Bishops, though one Bishop was murdered for documenting
Catholics are 82% of the population.
Guyana – A republic on the north coast of South
America: capital, Georgetown. The Churches of England and Scotland had sole legal rights until
1899, when the Catholic Church among others was given equal status.
Most Catholics are Portuguese. The Georgetown Diocese was established
in 1956. In 1966, Guyana became independent of England. Its
bishop was ordained in 1971. Catholics are 10.2% of the population.
Haiti – The eastern third of the island of Hispaniola (adjacent
to the Dominican Republic), capital, Port-au-Prince. It was
evangelized following its discovery by
Columbus in 1492, and ceded by Spain to France in 1697. Missions
were established in the 18th century by
Capuchins and Jesuits. In 1804 independence was declared from
France, which left the country in schism. A concordat restored communion in
1860, when an archdiocese
and four dioceses were formed. In the 1990s priests and religious
were often targets
of political violence, being seen as either independent or
backing the government. Catholics are 82% of the population.
Honduras – Republic in Central
America: capital, Tegucigalpa. It was evangelized
under Spain, with the first diocese established in the 16th
century. After independence was declared in 1823, the Church held
position until 1880, when equal status was accorded all religions.
Harassment of priests and nuns accompanied civil unrest in the late
20th century. Catholics are 81% of the population.
Jamaica – Island in the West
Indies, a member of the Commonwealth: capital, Kingston. Discovered by Columbus in 1494, it
was evangelized by Franciscans and Dominicans from 1512 until 1655,
when the English took possession. The Jesuits resumed mission
work at the turn of the 19th century. An apostolic vicariate
was set up in 1967.
Catholics are 4.3% of the population.
Martinique – French possession in
the West Indies: capital, For-de-France. Catholicism was introduced in
the 16th century. The hierarchy was established in 1967. Catholics
are 87% of the population.
Mexico – A republic in S North
America: capital, Mexico City. Missionaries brought Catholicism
to Mexico early in the 16th
century, in the wake of the Spaniards. First came the Franciscans, then
the Dominicans, then the Jesuits. Mexico City, the administrative center for New Spain, was declared a diocese in
1530. The missionaries defended the natives against government
exploitation. The secular clergy, resenting intrusion from the religious
orders, sided with the government. In turn, the government decreed
the missionaries should have ten years to convert the natives, and then
turn them over to the diocesan clergy. Close association
between the brutal government and the secular clergy induced a
negative attitude toward the Church in the lower classes. This
attitude was overcome
by the appearance of Our Lady of Guadeloupe to the farmer Juan
Diego in 1551. In 1821, Mexico declared independence from Spain.
Mexico was then governed by a new elite which was secular,
materialist, and hostile to the Catholic Church. A new
constitution in 1917, imbued with ideas from Socialism and
Freemasonry, denied many civil rights to priests, men and women religious, and
seminarians. It denied to Christians freedom of education, manifestation,
press and political expression. In 1926, despite the fact
that 99% of Mexicans were Catholic, the government reformed the
penal code, with the intent that not only Catholic institutions,
but Catholic culture, should be uprooted. Dozens of Catholics
were executed, including
priests and nuns, 24 of whom were canonized 21 May 2000.
Since the 1940s, when restrictions ceased to be enforced with
rigor, the Church’s situation has gradually improved. In 1991
the Church received legal recognition, though certain
restrictions continued to be enforced (no freedom
of education, manifestation, or use of the media by Churches).
In 2000, with the election of a new President, Vincente Fox, and
a new party in power, increased religious liberty seemed
imminent. Improved relations between Church and State were in
evidence July 2002 when the President
John Paul II at Mexico's international airport,
kissing his ring,
on the 192nd anniversary of Mexican
the following September, when
the archbishop primate of Mexico honored
the national flag in the courtyard of the metropolitan
Even with some defections to
Protestantism, Catholics make up 92% of the population of 135 million,
making Mexico the second largest Catholic country in the
Netherlands Antilles –
Two groups of islands which are an independent part of The
Netherlands: capital, Willemstad on Curacao. Christianity was introduced in
the 16th century. Catholics are 82% of the population.