Explore the Oldest Dioceses in South Asia

Cardinal Cheong

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.

Support our Asian Catholic Dioceses Directory now.

Support Asian Catholic Dioceses Directory
Support Asian Catholic Dioceses Directory

Diocese of Chilaw

Report An Error
Diocese of Chilaw
  • Facebook Share
  • Twitter Share

Chilaw is a coastal area in the northwestern province of Sri Lanka, about spanning a land area of about 3,013.4 square kilometers. It comes under northwestern province in the country. Chilaw is a seaside town on the west coast of the island of Sri Lanka. It is famous for crabs and coconuts. This is the second most important capital of the North Western Province where coconut plantations thrive.

Chilaw in early times was not only a reputed sea port it was also famous for its pearl fishery. Chilaw diocese is well known for its picturesque lagoon, a paradise for shallow sea fishing activities. More recently prawn farming activities have also flourished in the area. History of this diocese goes back to the arrival of North Indian Prince Vijaya, 2500 years ago in Tammanna in the coastal belt above Puttalam. This happened when his vessel was washed ashore. Thonigala the homeland of Kuweni is situated deep in the district. Chilaw diocese is the second largest coconut producer of the country. And Tabbowa, a fertile land for agriculture records highest paddy production per acre. Holland fort at Kalpitiya, St. Anne's Church in Thalawila and Munneshwaram Kovil in Chillaw underline the historical importance of this diocese. Munneswaram temple is a popular Hindu temple which is north of the capital, Chilaw. The temple is dedicated to the main deity in Saivism namely Lord Siva and is one of the five ancient Sivan temples in the island.

Chilaw has been the home of 'Nadagam' an integrated version of the dramatised 'Way of the Cross' and the Sinhalese 'Koolam' a form of devil dancing practiced by lowlanders - the first form of Sinhala drama in Sri Lanka. The great Mahatma Gandhi, the "Father of India", once visited Chilaw in 1927 on his first and only visit to Ceylon. The Kaffrinha had a community in this coastal district. They were brought to the island of Ceylon by the Portuguese from African villages. The Kaffir slaves settled here and their descendants speak Portuguese. Population in Chilaw diocese, the population is 835,000 at end of 2016. (The population of the whole country 21,670,000.) Most residents are Sinhalese.

Now the Bishop of Chilaw diocese is Bishop Warnakulasuriya Wadumestrige Devsritha Valence Mendis. He was born on May 21, 1958, at Koralawella in Moratuwa and ordained a priest on July 20, 1985 at St.Joseph's church, Wennappuwa. He was consecrated as Co-Adjutor Bishop of Chilaw on April 02, 2005.Bishop Valence Mendis completed the M.A. at the university of Peradeniya and became the visiting lecturer in the department of Philosophy in the national seminary. Bishop Valence Mendis completed the M.A. at the university of Peradeniya and became the visiting lecturer in the department of Philosophy. He speaks Italian, German, Latin, English, Sinhala and Tamil. He was the first director of the national seminary philosophate. Bishop Valence Mendis is the chairman of the National commission for education, Bible apostolate, catechetics. Chairman of the National commission for Migrants, refugees, health. Chairman of the national commission for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue of the catholic bishops' conference of Sri Lanka.

Chilaw diocese is adjacent to Anuradhapura in the North, Batticaloa in the West, Colombo in the South, Kandy in the Central. The diocese was founded on Jan 5, 1939. Bishop Edmund Peiris, O.M.I. was consecrated as the first bishop. He was appointed Jan 12, 1940 and resigned Dec 27, 1972. There are now 40 parishes with 99 resident priests.

Earlier the Kurunegala diocese was under Chilaw diocese and later carved out as a new diocese of Kurunegala. The Chilaw diocese patron saint is Our Lady of Mount Carmel. There are 284,150 baptized Catholics in the diocese Chilaw.


The Sinhala and Tamil languages are in use.


Rainy season begins in May and lasts till August and October to January, this is the time of year when heavy rains can be expected. Warm weather prevails from February to April, and cooler, temperate weather from December to February. The average temperature is about 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit).

Help us improve the Asian Catholic Dioceses Directory

Support Asian Catholic Dioceses Directory
Support Asian Catholic Dioceses Directory
UCA News
The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia.
Union of Catholic Asian News Limited
P.O. Box 69626,
Kwun Tong,
Hong Kong
[email protected]