Christian missionaries first arrived in 1857, when Dr. Hiram Bingham, of the American Board of Foreign Missionaries, began to spread Protestantism in the northern Gilberts with the help of Hawaiian pastors. In 1888, Catholicism was introduced to the islands by the Sacred Heart Mission. The American Board withdrew from the territory in 1917 and was succeeded by the London Missionary Society, which had placed Samoan pastors on the islands as early as 1870.
Virtually the entire population is Christian. According to 2002 government statistics, 55% of the population are Roman Catholics and 37% belong to the Kiribati Protestant Church (formerly called the Congregational Church). Religious minorities include the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Church of God, Assemblies of God, Mormons, and Baha'is.