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Church in Myanmar

Capital : Naypyidaw
Population : 53.5 million
Catholics : 661876 (1.24%)
Jurisdictions : Three Archdioceses,13 Dioceses
Parishes : 386
Major Religions : Theravada Buddhism 87.9%, Christianity 6.2%, Islam 4.3%, Other 1.6%
The first evidence of the Christian presence in Myanmar is traced to the 13th century -- Latin and Greek writings are found in some places in the Bagan area, a former Bagan kingdom located in the Mandalay region.

After the Portuguese established the sea route to Asia in 1498 and settled in Goa in the southwestern India, missioners set out for evangelization in Far East. According to some records, in 1550 a French Franciscan priest, Bonferre, went from Goa to Bagan and Thailand. In 1548, St. Francis Xavier wrote letters about the need of sending missioners to Pegu. But nothing is heard about these initiatives.

Portuguese mercenary Filipe de Brito Nicote established the Portuguese-backed rule in Thanlyin in 1603, which helped Catholic missioners to come to the area. But ten years later a local king defeated Brito, resulting in the end of the mission.

In 1722, the Vatican reestablished the mission assigning the Bernabite priests, who secured the freedom to preach after many difficulties. Following them, priests from the congregation of Oblates of Pinerolo came but they abandoned the mission in 1852 after the British annexed Pegu following a bloody war.

For some time, the mission was under the care of the Vicar Apostolic of Siam but in 1806, the Propaganda Fide divided Myanmar into three vicaritates -- Northern Burma, Southern Burma, and Eastern Burma. While northern and southern vicariates were entrusted to the care of priests of Missions Etrangères de Paris (MEP), the eastern vicariate was put under the Milan Seminary of Foreign Missions. Priests of these congregations were already working in the region.

Protestant groups began to appear in the 19th century and flourished under the British colonial rule. Missioners -- Catholics and Protestants – built up an outstanding educational system to help the poor and the needy in the villages and towns of the country. But the 1962 coup that installed a military junta changed the scene. The junta banned the clergy from teaching and deported foreign missionaries.

The current constitution of Myanmar asserts freedom of religion but reports say Catholic citizens are routinely denied better-paying administrative jobs and barred from what little social services the government provides. They are also prohibited from building new churches.

The country has an estimated at 53.5 million people (in 2019) and 87.9 percent of them are Buddhists. Of the 6.2 percent Christians, Catholics are just 1.24 percent.

The Catholics are organized into 16 Dioceses, including three Archdioceses.
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