There are about eleven million Catholics - around 70% of the total population (16.500.000 in 2008). There are 5 archidioceses, 18 dioceses, 2 territorial prelatures, 1 apostolic vicariate, 1 military ordinariate and a personal prelature (Opus Dei).
Catholicism was introduced by Dominican and Franciscan friars who accompanied the Spanish colonialists in the 16th century. The first parish was established in 1547 and the first diocese in 1561. Most of the native population in the northern and central regions was evangelized by 1650. The southern area proved more difficult. Church activity was hindered during the campaign for independence (1810-18) and in the first years of the new government. In the 20th century, further success was impeded by a shortage of clergy and government attempts to control Church administration. Separation of Church and state was defined by a new constitution in 1925. Relations between Church and state were strained during the Marxist presidency of Salvador Allende and under the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
There are six Catholic universities in the country: Catholic University of the Holy Conception, Catholic University of the Maule, Catholic University of the North, Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (in Santiago), Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso, and Temuco Catholic University. Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile (Santiago) is considered on the the "World's Best Colleges and Universities" in the new 2009 US News and World Report.
Several religious orders sponsor a number of secondary and primary schools. One of the most famous is St. George's College, run by the Congregation of Holy Cross. One third of the CEO's of the top 200 companies of Chile are alumni of St. George's College. The school was recently highlighted by alumnus, Andres Wood, who directed the film, Wikipedia:Machuca.
The Government observes the following Catholic Holy Days as national holidays (if on a week day): Good Friday, Christmas, Feast of the Virgin of Carmen, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Feast of the Assumption, and All Saints Day.
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