The New Evangelization - Asia

– 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 Siberia (Irkutsk). 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 are Catholic.

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 Communist 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 the population.

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 in 1665, 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 the population.

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 in 1923. 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 5.5 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 the 6th 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.