Explore the Oldest Dioceses in South Asia

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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 Cochin

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Diocese of Cochin
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The territory of the diocese of Cochin covers 235 square kilometers in Kerala state. It is situated between the Arabian Sea in the west, the archdiocese of Verapoly in the north and in the east and the diocese of Alleppey in the south.

Cochin is an important port city of Kerala on the southwest coast and is located in the district of Ernakulam. It was strategically important over the centuries. It was referred to as the Queen of the Arabian Sea and also named the Gateway to Kerala. It is believed that the word Cochin was derived from the Malayalam words, Koch Azhi means 'small lagoon'.

Cochin is considered the commercial hub and industrial capital of Kerala since time immemorial. Kochi is the original name of the city, while Cochin is the colonial name. This beautiful seaside city is flanked by the Western Ghats on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.


In 2016, the total population of the diocesan territory is 618,890.


Malayalam, English, Hindi, Tamil are in use in the diocesan territory.


History of the diocese of Cochin begins with the arrival of the Portuguese missionaries in India. These neo-apostles reached Kappad near Calicut on May 20, 1498, along with Vasco Da Gama, the famous navigator. History has it that their reception was far from friendly. In the violent encounter that ensued, quite a few of the visitors, including some anointed, were killed. As a result, Da Gama had to return to Lisbon. It is worth noting here the first martyr among the Portuguese missionaries in Kerala was Father Fedro De Covilakam.

A second expedition under Captain Alvarez Cabral, comprising 13 ships and 18 priests, anchored at Cochin on Nov. 26, 1500. Cabral soon won the goodwill of the Raja of Cochin. He allowed four priests to do apostolic work among the early Christian communities scattered in and around Cochin. Thus Portuguese missionaries established Portuguese Mission in 1500.

During the reign of Catholic emperor of Portugal John III, more Franciscan friars and priests reached Goa. Along with them a highly trained team of Jesuit missionaries, led by Father Francis Xavier reached Cochin. Later, he requested the help of Jesuit General St. Ignatius and the emperor for more missionaries from Portugal. Francis Xavier visited Cochin several times and stayed more than 120 days. He used to offer mass at St. Antony's Church. This church is still at Cochin, known as Lenthapally (Dutch church). At present, this church is under the department of the Archaeological Survey of India.

The Jesuits, Dominicans, Augustinians and the Carmelites followed them. At the arrival of the Portuguese, the Christians in Cochin area joined the Roman Latin rite.

A monastery of the Franciscans "Santo Antonino" was established in Cochin in 1518 and two others of the Jesuits in 1550 and 1561. In 1553 the Dominicans founded their college and monastery in Cochin.

The whole of the east was under the jurisdiction of the diocese of Lisbon. On June 12, 1514, Cochin and Goa became two prominent mission stations under the newly created Funchal diocese in Madeira. Pope Paul III by the Bull Quequem Reputamus raised Funchal as an archdiocese and Goa as its suffragon, deputing the whole of India under the diocese of Goa.

When the diocese of Goa was established in 1534, Cochin became part of the new diocese.

The diocese of Cochin was erected on Feb. 4, 1557 by Pope Paul IV in his Decree Pro Excellenti Praeeminentia. The pope also declared the magnificent Portuguese church of Santa Cruz as the cathedral of the new diocese. At that time, Cochin was the second diocese in India and had the jurisdiction over the whole of South, East India, Burma and Ceylon.

The first bishop of Cochin was a Dominican priest Dom George Temudo (1557-1567).

In 1663, the Dutch conquered Cochin and destroyed all the Catholic churches and institutions except the cathedral and the church of St. Francis Assisi. During the British conquest of Cochin, the cathedral was destroyed.

The diocese of Cochin stood witness to many important historical events, including the Synod of Diamper which was held on June 10, 1599, conducted by Archbishop Alexis De Menezes of Goa.

Since 1646, the administration of the diocese was difficult. It was often affected by the conquests of Cochin by the Dutch. Bishops who were consecrated as the bishops of the diocese could not reach here. As a result fractions, rebellions and schisms erupted in the diocese. In order to bring the dissidents back to the mother church, Holy See sent the Carmelite missionaries. Thus was established the vicariate of Malabar in 1657. In 1709 it was changed into the vicariate of Verapoly. In 1838 the diocese of Cochin was annexed to the vicariate of Verapoly. From 1838 and 1886, the diocese of Cochin was governed by the vicar apostolic of Verapoly.

On June 23, 1886, Pope Leo XIII promulgated the famous concordat called Humane Salutis Auctor by which the diocese of Cochin was restored to its original condition and placed again as a suffragan under the diocese of Goa. Simultaneously, the vicariate of Verapoly was raised to archdiocese and the diocese of Quilon was erected as its suffragan.

After the reorganization in 1886, five Portuguese bishops ruled the diocese. In 1950 the diocese was handed over to the native clergy. Dr. Alexander Edezhath (1951-1975) was the first Indian bishop. He was succeeded by Bishop Joseph Kureethara (1975-1999). After his demise, in 2000 Bishop John Thattumkal was appointed as the bishop of the diocese and he was suspended from his responsibilities over a scandal. Bishop Joseph Kariyil was appointed as the new bishop of Cochin on May 8, 2009.


The city of Cochin is administered by Kochi Corporation, headed by a mayor. The city is divided into 70 wards for administrative purposes and members of the corporation council are elected from the wards.


The territory is well connected with roads and railway. The nearest airport is just 25 kilometers away from the city.


Cochin's proximity to the equator, the sea and the mountains provide a moderate equatorial climate. The rainy season-south west monsoon, begins in June and lasts up to September. The northwest monsoon brings light rainfall in October-December. December to February is comparatively cooler. The average annual rainfall is about 350 cm. During the summer, March -June, the temperature hits maximum 35 degrees Celsius.


Cochin is the industrial nerve centre of Kerala. Since time immemorial it was a renowned commercial and trade center. Today Cochin is a bustling industrial hub. Trading, fishing, heavy industry and information technology thrive here.


The level of telecommunication infrastructure is high. Cochin has the highest density of telephones in India. Almost everyone has a mobile phone. Most of the homes have television and internet. Cochin has six television stations. More than a dozen newspapers are published from here. Five FM radio stations and a private satellite radio are also broadcasted from here.


Literacy rate in the diocesan territory is 94.3 percent, higher than the national average of 59.5 percent.


Cochin is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious town. All most all major religions, including Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Jewish, Jainism and Buddhism are practiced here. The major religion is Hinduism.


The city of Cochin is administered by Kochi Corporation, headed by a Mayor. The city is divided into 70 wards for administrative purposes and members of the corporation council are elected from the wards.

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