The New Evangelization - Oceania

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 In 1803 they were permitted to say Mass once a month, but then the privilege was withdrawn.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 Zealand. Protestant evangelization began in 1821, resulting in a largely Protestant population. Catholic missionary work began in 1894. The hierarchy was established in 1966. 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 are 10% of population.

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. A more 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 the Sacred 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.