Explore the Oldest Dioceses in South Asia

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The cathedral of the first diocese in India.

It is believed that Christianity was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle,
who is said to have reached the Malabar Coast of Kerala in 52 AD.

Christian communities developed and expanded further when
Portuguese missionaries arrived in the 13th and 14th centuries.

History of a few oldest dioceses in India as the cradle of Indian Christianity
can be dated back to the 15th century.

Find out which is the first diocese in India here.

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Diocese of Anuradhapura

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Diocese of Anuradhapura
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The diocese covers a land area of 10,258.5 square kilometers, the diocesan territory includes Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa deanery and two districts.

Anuradhapura is one of the ancient capitals of Sri Lanka, famous for its well preserved ruins of the Great Sri Lankan Civilization. It is regarded as the country's first capital, established in 4 B.C., which had remained the royal capital for over 10 centuries. The civilization which was built upon this city was one of the great world civilizations. The city, now a UNESCO heritage site, lies 205 kilometers north of the present capital Colombo in the North Central Province.

Anuradhapura has a population of 1,140,000 the majority of whom are Sinhalese Buddhists. Other ethnic groups include Burghers, Indian Tamils, Moors, Malays and Tamils. Other religious groups are Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

The city also had some of the most complex irrigation systems of the ancient world. The administration had built many tanks to irrigate the land, which is situated in the dry zone of the country. Most of these tanks still exist. It is believed that some of these tanks are the oldest reservoirs of the world.

Furthermore, the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa remain two of the best archaeological relic sites in the country. Some ruins of Anuradhapura include the Sri Maha bodhiya or temple (the bodhi tree, sacred to Buddhists, at the Sri Maha bodhiya is specially protected), Abhayagiri Dagaba, Isurumuniya, Jetavanarama, Magul Uyana, Lankarama, Lovamahapaya, Mirisaveti, Rathna Prasadaya, Ruwanwelisaya, Stupa, Thuparamaya and Vessagiri.

Anuradhapura is a predominantly Buddhist area. The diocese was founded on Dec. 19, 1975. Earlier, Anuradhapura was part of Jaffna diocese and later carved out as a Sinhalese mission. Anuradhapura diocese's patron saint is St. Joseph. The diocese covers the whole of North Central province.

Anuradhapura diocese is adjacent to Jaffna in the north, Chillaw in the west, Galle in the south and Trincomalee in the east. Bishop Henry Swithin Thomas Alexander Wijetunge Goonewardena, OMI, was appointed on Dec. 20, 1975, as the first bishop of the diocese. He resigned on Nov. 2, 1995. Today, there are 29 diocesan priests and 13 parishes including three places of pilgrimage, such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Madu-Maduru Oya and Calvary Shrine.


InAnuradhapura diocese, the population is 1,140,000 at end of 2015. The population of the whole country is  21,670,000. Most residents are Sinhalese.


The standard Sinhala language is in use.


The towns are managed by municipalities. The villages and small towns are administered by elected local bodies.


The diocesan area is well connected by roads and railways. The provincial airports are in Anuradhapura and Higurakgoda.


The rainy season lasts from October to December. Anuradhapura is on the mainland within the arid and dry zone. High temperatures and low rainfall characterize the climate. The monthly temperatures range between 26.5 and 30 degrees Celsius with highs normally recorded between May and August. Anuradhapura receives nearly 60 percent of its rainfall during the northeast monsoon, which lasts from October through December.


Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area.


The literacy rate is 91.4 percent.

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