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.
Gonsalo's martyrdom at Nagasaki with the other Christian missionaries is regarded as the most tragic and historic event for Catholicism in Japan
Calungsod and his companion Father Vitores baptized infants, children and adults, defying the risk of persecution and murder
Despite being an ordinary layman, Ruiz remained defiant while facing torture by the Japanese and died a brave martyr
He was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea
This fabled church is also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross) Church
Asian Catholics who cannot visit famous Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in France can revere miraculous Mother Mary at Velankanni shrine in India. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as “the Lourdes of the East” and holds the largest Catholic Church in Asia.
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.
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.
The shrine holds a three-meter-tall, white-stone carved statue Virgin Mary on the Tao Pao Mountain in the Diocese of Phan Thiet in southern Vietnam, about 1,600 kilometers from the national capital Hanoi.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Urakami of Nagasaki is a witness of persecution of Christians from 17th to 19th centuries and deadly atomic bombing during the Second World War. This European-style, red-brick church continues to preserve some relics that survived the atomic bombing. Urakami cathedral, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was almost destroyed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945. The church stood about 500 meters from the hypocenter of atomic explosion. The devastation shattered and charred stone-made statues of saints, which were later preserved as relics along with the surviving head of Virgin Mary statue and one of the church’s original bells.
Our Lady of Akita Catholic Church is Yuzawadai is among the most famous churches in Japan. The church shot into global fame thanks to a wooden statue of Blessed Virgin Mary that wept 101 times and Marian apparitions to Japanese nun Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa that miraculously healed her hearing impairment. Japanese wooden sculptor Saburo Wakasa from Akita city carved the now-famous miraculous statue of Virgin Mary in 1963.
The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Seria is a small church on the western Belait district of Brunei, but it shot into fame thanks to the nation’s most famous Catholic – late Cardinal Cornelius Sim. It is also the second of three churches in Brunei dedicated to Virgin Mary. In fact, Mary has a prominent place not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, the dominant faith in Brunei. Holy Quran mentions Mary seventy times and reveres her as the greatest woman to have ever lived.