Missioners from Portugal and Spain began work in Maluku area in 1534. The first baptism was also recorded in the same year in Ternate, North Maluku. Several villagers of Mamuia on Halmahera islands accepted Catholic faith guided by Portuguese merchant Gonzalo Veloso.
The Church began to grow more significantly in 1546 with the missionary work of Portuguese missioner St. Francis Xavier. By 1558 Ambon and surrounding islands had some 10,000 Catholics.
After the Dutch took over the islands in early 17th century, Protestantism grew rapidly, limiting the influence of the Catholic Church.
On July 1, 1888, two Jesuit missioners Fathers Johannes Kusters and Johannes Booms arrived in Tual. A year later, on July 13, 1889, the head of Langgur village, near Tual, allowed Father Kusters to baptize Sakbau, a sick young girl naming her Maria Sakbau. Soon after, the girl was completely recovered and the news spread quickly helping the growth of Catholicism to other villages in Kei Islands.
The pope on Dec. 22, 1902, established the apostolic prefecture of New Guinea, the first ecclesiastically autonomous unit outside the vicariate of Batavia.
The arrival of Sacred Heart Missionaries (MSC) on Nov. 28 1903, replacing Jesuits, made the mission more effective. The first MSC missioner Father Mathias Neyens was appointed apostolic prefect.
Father Neyens worked to expand the missions extensively to north of New Guinea (1904), Kei (1906) and Tanibar Island. He occasionally visited Ambon, and also other places such as Ternate, where Dutch government did not allow Catholic missioners to establish permanent mission.
The rapid growth of the Church in Maluku helped the Vatican elevate its status to apostolic vicariate on Aug. 29, 1920, and Bishop Johannes Aerts, MSC, was appointed its first apostolic vicar. The first diocesan priest -- Father Eusebius Jamco from Kei -- was ordained in 1924.
The Japanese soldiers, who arrived on July 30 1942 in Kei Islands, executed 13 Sacred Heart missioners, including Bishop Johannes Aerts, five priests and 8 brothers in Langgur beach. Other missionaries including Dutch nuns from the Daughters of Our Lady of Sacred Heart (PBHK) were detained in concentration camps, and some of them died.
Five years later, in 1947, Father Jacobus Grent, MSC, took the seat of Bishop Aerts. He rebuilt the destroyed mission. In 1949, the name of this ecclesiastical unit was changed to vicariate apostolic of Amboina and the headquarters was moved from Langgur to Ambon in 1960.
On January 3, 1961 the hierarchy of the Church in Indonesia was officially established. At the same time, Maluku became a diocese with Bishop Grent as the first ordinary. In 1965, Bishop Andreas Peter Cornelius Sol, MSC, replaced him.
The diocese of Amboina faced a great challenge when a social conflict broke on Jan.19, 1999, in Maluku and North Maluku. About 12,000 people died and several buildings and houses were damaged. According to diocesan data, about 80 churches, five convents, and a number of schools, hospitals and several houses of Catholics were damaged.
On every first Friday of the month thousands of Catholics flock to Holy Cross Church of Cherpunkal in Kerala, India to revere Infant Jesus and St. Thomas, the founder of the church. The church stands on the southern bank of Meenachil River. This fabled church, also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross)Church, belongs to Catholic Diocese of Palai of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Church in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, is the mother church in the tribal belt of eastern India, where Belgian Jesuits laid the foundation of Catholicism in 19th century. This brownish Church, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, stands on Dr. Camil Bulcke Path and nestles between St. Xavier’s College and St. Albert Major Seminary.
Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Sardhana is a historic church that lives the memory of love and benevolence of the sole female Roman Catholic ruler in India. Our Lady of Graces Church of Sardhana stands at Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh of northern India. Consecrated in 1822, this 200-feet long church with a high central dome over the main altar, is one of the largest churches in northern India.
Saint Thomas Cathedral Basilica at Mylapore is a monumental declaration on ancient root of Christianity in India. The church was built over the tomb of St. Thomas, the Apostle who is believed to have preached Christianity in India. The cathedral preserves 2000-year-old bones of the saint and the lance that pierced him to death. Popularly known as Santhome Church, the cathedral at Chennai (formerly Madras) in Tamil Nadu state was constructed during the Portuguese era in the 16th century. “San Thome” assumes its name from St. Thomas.
St. Joseph’s Church in Lahore is the oldest Catholic Church in Pakistan that has flourished since the 19th century despite deadly sectarian violence in recent years. The church at Sarfaraz Rafiqui Road in Lahore was established as a wooden structure during the British colonial era, on Oct. 31, 1842, to provide pastoral care to the British soldiers. It completed 180 years this year.
Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India. Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.
The Cathedral of Good Shepherd in Singapore is a historic National Monument, but it also holds first-class relics of a French saint who brought Catholicism on the shores of city-state two centuries ago. Built in 1847, the Good Shepherd Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Church and mother church of all Catholic churches in Singapore.