The Catholic Church has been a dominant institution in Timor since the arrival of the Portuguese and over 90% of the population are Catholics although some earlier animist beliefs seem to persist.
The Diocese of Dili was established in 1940 from part of the larger Diocese of Macau. Of the several bishops it has had since then, Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo is the most widely known. The most recent has been Bishop Alberto Ricardo da Silva who was appointed in 2004. The Diocese of Baucau was established in 1996 and its only leader has been Bishop Basilio do Nascimento.
In January 2010 the Diocese of Dili was divided to create a new diocese, which now joins the Diocese of Baucau as the nation’s third. The new diocese of Maliana will include the administrative region of Maliana in three districts (Liquica, Bobonaro, and Cova–Lima) and 16 sub–districts.
The newly delineated Diocese of Maliana is formed of 10 parishes serving just over 200,000 Catholics, who represent more than 98% of the area’s population. Six diocesan and 25 non–diocesan priests, along with 108 religious brothers and sisters, are assigned within the new diocese’s limits.