Explore the Oldest Dioceses in South Asia

Cardinal Cheong

The cathedral of the first diocese in India.

It is believed that Christianity was introduced to India by Thomas the Apostle,
who is said to have reached the Malabar Coast of Kerala in 52 AD.

Christian communities developed and expanded further when
Portuguese missionaries arrived in the 13th and 14th centuries.

History of a few oldest dioceses in India as the cradle of Indian Christianity
can be dated back to the 15th century.

Find out which is the first diocese in India here.

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Diocese of Bareilly

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Diocese of Bareilly
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With a land area of 32,860 square kilometers, the diocese covers the districts of Bareilly, Shahjahanpur and Pilibhit in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and Almora, Bageshwar, Champavat, Nainital, Pithoragarh and Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand state.

Bareilly, Nainital and Pilibhit are the biggest towns in the diocese.


The 2016 census counted 10,555,125 total population, of whom it identified 6,985 as Christians.


Hindi, Punjabi, English, Urdu and Kumaoni are the main languages spoken.


The year 1885 marks the beginning of the long process of divisions and sub-divisions of the Tibet-Hindustan region, which led to the creation of not less than 30 ecclesiastical units.

On Jan. 19, 1989, Pope John Paul II announced the erection of the new diocese of Bareilly, taking territory from the diocese of Lucknow. The Church of St Alphonsus was made its cathedral. The diocese is a suffragan of Agra archdiocese.

On the same day he erected the diocese, the Holy Father appointed Father Anthony Fernandes, vicar general of Varanasi, as its first bishop.

The diocesan territory originally comprised six districts of Uttar Pradesh, but the division of that state in 2000 to create the new state of Uttarakhand left the diocese straddling the two states. Following further civil subdivisions, Bareilly now covers nine districts.


Cities are managed by corporations. Villages and small towns are administered by panchayats and municipalities, respectively. These local bodies are elected.


The diocesan area is well connected by roads and railways. The nearest airport is in New Delhi.


Annual per capita income is Rs 11, 318 ($249) as of January 2011. Agriculture is the main occupation in the diocesan area. Sugarcane, wheat, rice, pulses and vegetables are widely grown.


Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities. The diocese is well covered by local cable TV networks.


It has 54.98 percent literacy rate.

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