VATICAN CITY, 27 JUL 2011
A communique published today explains that Malaysia is the 179th nation to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See. The country has a surface area of 329,750 square kilometres and a multi-racial and multi-cultural population of 28,306,700. The religion of State is Islam, professed by 60.4 percent of the inhabitants. The next largest religious group is the Buddhists (19.2 percent), followed by Christians (9.1 percent), Hindus (6.3 percent), Chinese religions (2.6 percent) and Animists (2.4 percent).
The Catholic Church has had a presence in the country since 1511, when the first Portuguese missionaries reached Malacca. St. Francis Xavier also arrived in that city in 1545. Today the Church has nine ecclesiastical circumscriptions centred on the archdioceses of Kuala Lumpur (on the peninsula) and of Kuching and of Kota Kinabalu (on the island of Borneo).
There are eleven bishops, 274 diocesan priests, 119 regular priests, 123 male religious, 759 female religious and 270 major seminarians. Catholics number 850,720, around three percent of the population.
The Catholic Church, the communique explains, is active in evangelisation and in the pastoral care of families and young people. While fully respecting people's cultural and religious identity, she works in the fields of education, charity and social work, running numerous primary and secondary schools, as well as institutions for the poor and for migrant workers. Initiatives exist to promote social harmony and reconciliation among the various religious communities, through dialogue, equality of rights and duties, and mutual respect.
The apostolic delegation to Malaysia was created on 2 February 1998 and has existed until now.
On 18 July Benedict XVI received Najib Bin Abdul Razak, prime minister of Malaysia, in audience at the Apostolic Palace of Castelgandolfo. During that meeting agreement was reached to establish diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the Holy See.
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