Catholicism is the main religion in Kiribati and the country boasts a plethora of well-designed and eclectic churches. Catholic churches are the biggest and most colourful on the island. The Bairiki Catholic Church is no exception. It stands out as a bold yellow and blue building which encourages tourists to enter. Bairiki Catholic Church is on the Northside of the main square. Regular masses are held here.
Protestant Christian missionaries first arrived here in November 1857, Hiram Bingham II and his wife translating the Bible into Gilbertese and writing school books. Many islanders were taken to work on other Pacific islands and converted to Catholicism. Two labourers, Betero and Tiroi return to Nonouti, built eight Catholic churches, baptized 560 people by 1888, and were instructing a further 600. Three Catholic priests arrived in by boat and dinghy in 1888 and celebrated the first Catholic mass on the island from the dinghy, still anchored in the shallow lagoon. Later Catholic religious sisters arrived, facing hostility from Protestants but eventually founding a boarding school for girls. The missionaries travelled between the various islands in a small ship, first in their own, and then between 1910 and 1938, relying on passing ships. After 1970 it was possible to fly between the islands. In 1966 a diocese was established. By 1970 there were 25,000 Catholics and by 2015, some 63,116, over half the population of Kiribati.
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