Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Are there Catholics in Somalia?

There seems to be a doubt among Somalis whether there are in fact Catholics in Somalia. It is a question that needs to be answered, because among Somalis, generally speaking, there is a huge amount of prejudice and misinformation with regards to the Catholic Church.

First of all, it must be proved there are in fact Catholics in Somalia, who are ethnically Somali, because they need to be accounted for and protected by the state, and given their rights to freedom of worship and religion.

Secondly, Somalis need to know that their fellow countrymen, albeit a small number of them, are members of the Catholic Church, and that being Catholic does not take away one's Somali identity, nationality or ethnicity.

Thirdly, it must be proved there are Catholics in Somalia, because the Church needs to provide her children with the Sacraments. If there is a doubt concerning the actual existence of Catholics in Somalia, it may make the Church's entry into Somalia even more difficult- and to some pointless.

All this being said, even if it were not necessary to prove the existence of Catholics in Somalia, that is, if the above reasons were not important or needing to be acknowledged, the fact remains that there are Catholics in Somalia today.

How do we know that there are Catholics in Somalia?

According to the Annuario Pontificio of 2005, there were 100 Catholics in the Diocese of Mogadishu, which encompasses the entire country. According to the Annuario Pontificio of 1951 there were 8 500 Catholics in the Vicariate Apostolic of Mogadishu.

Of course, in 1951, Somalia was still an Italian Colony, so many of those Catholics would have been Europeans. But the Church did make converts among the local populace- especially among former slaves and from the orphans raised by Catholic missionaries. When Somalia became independent the Catholic population dropped drastically, and at the start of the civil war about 200-100 Catholics were documented by the subsequent editions of the Annuario Pontificio.

On the 6th of July 2011, Vatican Radio did a report on the Church in Somalia, the same figure of about 100 Catholics was cited. 

Bishop Giorgio Bertin OFM, the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu keeps in phone contact with the Catholics of Somalia, and tries to visit them- the most recent visit being earlier this year, the first time he could do so in years. A good question to ask oneself is why would Bishop Bertin face the very real risk of death to visit a country with no Catholics? Remember, he is already the Bishop of the neighboring country of Djibouti, which has a significant amount of Catholics and a myriad of other problems to keep a Bishop busy full time. Why would Bishop Bertin risk life and limb, on top of an already busy schedule, for nothing? The obvious and most logical answer is that he is not doing it for nothing. He goes to Somalia to visit the persecuted members of his flock- and he risks his life because that is what every shepherd of souls is bound to do. Somalia is hardly the ideal holiday retreat for an already over worked Bishop!

Next, the very fact that fanatical Islamists, especially Al Shabaab, harp on about exterminating Christians (which includes Catholics), and in fact do actually kill Christians, is a proof that there are Catholics in Somalia.

Click here for a general overview of the ecclesiastical statistics of Somalia over the years, ending in 2004.

Please offer a pray for the persecuted Catholics of Somalia, and pray that the Church may soon be able to labor again amongst her Somali children. Our Lady of Fatima and Queen of Africa, pray for Somalia!

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