Pope Francis has approved Sri Lanka's first saint, an Indian missionary credited with reviving the Catholic Church on the  island during persecution by Dutch colonial rulers, according to church officials.

Francis is scheduled to canonise Joseph Vaz next year during his visit to the Buddhist-majority island, the Catholic Church in Colombo said in a statement on Thursday.

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Vaz, who was beatified in 1995, was born in India's former Portuguese colony of Goa but chose to spend most of his life working in neighbouring Sri Lanka in the 17th century.

"Most probably the canonisation will take place at the papal mass" at a sea-front promenade in Colombo on January 14, the statement said.

Francis is due to spend three days in Sri Lanka from January 13 before heading to the Philippines - Asia's largest Catholic country.

The canonisation of Vaz comes without attributing a second miracle to the missionary known as the "Apostle of Sri Lanka".

The Vatican usually approves one miracle for beatification and another for canonisation.

Sri Lanka is mainly a Buddhist country, but it has a 7.5 percent Christian population.

The late Pope John Paul II beatified Vaz in January 1995 at a mass at the same sea-front venue in Colombo.

Vaz, who is credited with working for the church in Sri Lanka for some 23 years in the 1600s, also spent several years in jail after the Dutch made Catholicism illegal.

Source: Agencies