Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Diocese of Galle

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DIOCESE OF GALLE (GALLENSIS).

Diocese in Ceylon, created by Leo XIII 25 Aug., 1893, by detaching two civil provinces, the Southern (2146 sq. miles) and Sabaragamuwa (1901 sq. miles), from the Archdiocese of Colombo. The total population is about 900,000, of whom 10,160 are (1909) Catholics. Besides a few Europeans and burghers of mixed descent, the population includes Singalese, Moors, and Tamils. There is a still greater religious diversity: Sivites, Parsees, Mohammedans, Protestants of various denominations, mostly, however, Buddhists of the Southern type. For these reasons the conversion of the non-Catholic population is difficult; the racial and religious differences affect seriously the instruction of the faithful, sparsely scattered over a large area. Leo XIII entrusted the new diocese to the Belgian Jesuits, and appointed as first bishop the Very Rev. Joseph Van Reeth, rector of the novitiate at Tronchiennes (Belgium). The bishop-elect (b. 6 Aug., 1843) was consecrated on 19 March, 1895, in Antwerp, his native town. Accompanied by three priests and one lay brother, he took possession of his see 9 Nov., 1895, since when progress has been slow but steady. The clergy comprises 22 Jesuits and 5 secular priests (4 natives and 1 European), residing in eleven centres, each having its church, mission-house, and school. The Catholic population has been doubled. The number of confessions has risen from 6381 (1897) to 27,956 (1908), and that of Communions from 7196 to 48,000. In 1897 only 335 boys and 376 girls attended the 14 Catholic schools, of which 9 had been opened that year; there are now (1909) some 2140 boys and 1009 girls in 39 schools. In 1901 was opened St. Aloysius's College, under the Jesuit Fathers, with 300 pupils. Belgian sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary render praiseworthy help. They have a convent in Galle (1896) and one in Matara (1908), while a third is being built at Kegalla. To the Galle convent is attached a room for lace-making, work from which won a gold medal at the St. Louis Exhibition (U.S.A.) in 1904. A similar institution has been started at Matara.

J. COOREMAN