Micronesia (Federated States of)

The Federated States of Micronesia, which stretches across a 2,700 km (1,677 mi) arc of the western Pacific, comprises 600 islands grouped into four states: Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap. Each of these states has its own distinct language, and some have more than one language, and multiple dialects. 

The islands share important cultural traits, but there are also many distinctive traits at the local level.  Micronesian Catholic life is also particularly interesting for the ways that local cultures inflect “ordinary” Catholic life. In cultures where deference shapes almost every interaction, Catholicism interacts in notable ways with traditional themes of respect, humility and reconciliation.

The small, scattered population of just over 50,000 Catholics and its remote location might seem to make Micronesia a relatively minor story in regards to Catholicism and culture, but the accounts here from Chuuk and Yap offer unusual models, quite distinct from American, French, Spanish, Asian or any other cultural templates, of Catholic life and practice.

Francis X. Hezel, S.J., author of many books on Micronesia, sums up some of the variety, and signals why it can be so intriguing when we think about religious expression: “Yapese express themselves through dance, Chuukese through song, and Pohnpeians through drama and reenactment.”

Though Catholicism and Protestantism came late to Chuuk, the islands became almost entirely Christian in a relatively short time. On islands that had once been fiercely resistant to Christianity, the catechists and Jesuits made surprisingly rapid progress spreading the faith.
Yap is the most heavily Catholic of the states in the Federated States of Micronesia. Though this account concerns a quite small community of people compared to the world’s billion-plus Catholics, the ways that Yapese culture interacts with Catholicism are intriguing.
    Religious Affiliation
    Chart source: Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures Project, 2010
    Total Population
    106,227 1
    22.70% 1
    77.30% 1
    Immigrants as % of Population
    2.6% 2
    4.67 per 100,000 people (global median 6.9) 3
    Fertility Rate
    3.19 births per adult woman 6
    Children Who Do Not Live to Age 5
    3.50% 6
    Life Expectancy at Birth
    69 years 6
    Internet Users
    30% 6
    Gross National Income per Capita
    US$3,200 6
    Population Living Below US$1.90 per Day
    50.4% 6
    • 1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision, Online Edition.
    • 2 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2015 revision.
    • 3 United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Homicide Statistics 2015.
    • 4 Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.
    • 5 World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report, 2016.
    • 6 UNICEF, State of the World's Children, 2016.

    These statistics are derived from the Vatican's official publication, Statistical Yearbook of the Church 2020 (Vatican City: Librera Editrice Vaticana, 2022). The numbers may differ from data reported by other sources on this site.

    Baptized Catholics
    Baptized Catholics as % of Total Population
    Baptisms per Year (Under age 7)
    Baptisms per Year (Over age 7)
    First Communions per Year
    Confirmations per Year
    Students Enrolled in Catholic Primary Schools
    Students Enrolled in Catholic Secondary Schools
    Students Enrolled in Catholic Higher Education
    Church Marriages per Year
    Church Marriages in Which Both Spouses are Catholics
    Women Religious (Nuns & Sisters)
    Catholics per Priest
    Mission Stations (no resident priests)