Skip links

Catholicism in Somalia: The Brave Few


When built in 1928, the Catholic cathedral in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital city, was the largest on the African continent. But more recent decades have not been kind to Somali Catholicism. In fact, the nation’s last Catholic bishop, Salvatore Colombo, was assassinated in 1989 while holding Mass inside the Mogadishu Cathedral, which since has been destroyed.

Though the country’s President at the time, Siad Barre, offered a reward for the capture of Colombo’s assassin(s), many suspected that Barre was behind the murder, which has remained unsolved.

In 1990, civil war broke out. Soon overrun by tribal warlords, Somalia became the world’s epitome of a failed state.

Some degree of order has slowly been restored, at least in Mogadishu. Somalia had its transitional federal government, and since August 2012 it has had an internationally recognized federal government. However, much of the country remains lawless.Even in Mogadishu the scene has been so dangerous that no bishop since the martyred Colombo has been appointed to the diocese.  Instead, the diocese has an apostolic administrator, Giorgio Bertin, who also serves as the Bishop of the Diocese of Djibouti, a nation of about 800,000 that borders Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia.

Somalia has an overall population of about eleven million, and at least 99.8% of the people are Muslim, with the vast majority being Sunni. It has been reported that there are just 100 Catholics in Somalia. However, the number is actually even less – about 30, plus a few foreign humanitarian workers, according to Bishop Bertin.

Of this brave Catholic 30, most are ethnic Somalis. Some of them have Christian names, while others do not.  Four or five of Somalia’s 30 Catholics belong to the Bantu ethnicity, says Bertin, who adds that there are basically no more Catholics of Italian heritage, and that any Catholic worship is typically conducted in secret.

Things weren’t always this way. Back in 1950, there were 8,500 Catholics living within the Diocese of Mogadishu, according to

Read more at…

Share with Friends:

Leave a comment