Archdiocese of Agra covers 14 civil districts of northern India's Uttar Pradesh state and two districts of neighboring Rajasthan. It is spread over an area of 49,162 square kilometers. Agra city is just 200 kilometers south of New Delhi. The region plays an important role in tourism, culture, agriculture, politics, industry and education.
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, is situated in Agra.
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Wishing to have some learned Christian priests in his court, the great Muslim Emperor Akbar invited the Jesuits from their college in Goa. Thus the first mission in the Mughal empire started in 1580 in Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra. Though the Jesuits enjoyed the patronage of Emperor Akbar and his son Jahangir, this did not continue during the reigns of Shah Jehan and Aurangazeb. When the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773, two Carmelite priests from Bombay took over the mission. After a short while they were replaced by the Capuchins, whose mission in Agra was linked with their mission in Tibet. By that time the apostolic vicariate of the Great Mughal had been erected, from which the Hindustan Mission was created. The mission was elevated to the apostolic vicariate of Tibet-Hindustan in 1820, and the name was changed to the apostolic vicariate of Agra in 1846. Agra became an archdiocese in 1886, when the Catholic Hierarchy of India was established.
Many dioceses in northern India were separated off from Agra, which has come to be called the mother diocese of North India.
Close to the cathedral lies Akbar's Church (1598), the first church to be built in Agra. Jesuit missionaries built it with assistance from Muslim Emperor Akbar, and it remained the cathedral until 1848. Emperors Akbar and Jahangir came to pray here. In 1610 the three royal princes, the nephews of Emperor Jahangir, were baptized here by Jesuit Fathers Corsi and Xavier. Begum Johana Sumroo, the Begum of Sardhana in Meerut diocese, was also baptized here.
Another historical monument in the archdiocese is the Martyrs' Cemetery. The land was freely given by Emperor Jahangir in 1604. Besides many Christian martyrs, well-known persons who died in various parts of India were buried here. The government of India cares for it as a protected monument. Italian Jerome Veroneo, the supposed architect of the world famous Taj Mahal, who died in 1640 at Lahore (presently in Pakistan), is buried here. The tomb of saintly Italian Father Mark Anthony Santucci, who was buried here in 1686, attracts non-Christian devotees.
People generally depend on agriculture. Rice, sugar cane, millet, wheat and barley are the main product.
One area of the archdiocese is entrusted to the care of the priests of Changanacherry diocese in Kerala. The archdiocese runs many schools. The famous Aligarh Muslim University is situated in the area.
Besides Hindus, a large number of Muslims live in the diocesan territory. Vrindavan in Mathura is considered the birthplace of Krishna, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, and attracts many devotees. Besides the many temples, more than 80 fairs take place here.
Gonsalo Garcia was born on Feb. 5, 1556, to a Portuguese father and Indian mother of Konkani descent, at Agashi village at Bassein (now Vasai), near Mumbai city in western India. His father was a soldier stationed at Fort Bassein, a Portuguese fort. Gonsalo received his education under the Jesuits. While assisting at the Church of the Holy of Jesus at Bassein, he developed a friendship with Jesuit Father Sebastian Gonsalves, who eventually became his lifelong mentor and guide.
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Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Sardhana is a historic church that lives the memory of love and benevolence of the sole female Roman Catholic ruler in India. Our Lady of Graces Church of Sardhana stands at Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh of northern India. Consecrated in 1822, this 200-feet long church with a high central dome over the main altar, is one of the largest churches in northern India.
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The Cathedral of Good Shepherd in Singapore is a historic National Monument, but it also holds first-class relics of a French saint who brought Catholicism on the shores of city-state two centuries ago. Built in 1847, the Good Shepherd Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Church and mother church of all Catholic churches in Singapore.
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