Gorakhpur is situated 750 kilometers southeast of Delhi, 225 kilometers north of Varanasi and 275 kilometers west of Lucknow, the capital city of the state of Uttar Pradesh. It comprises seven northeastern districts of Uttar Pradesh -- Basti, Deoria, Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Maharajganj, Sant Kabirnagar and Siddharthnagar, covering an area of 19,070 square kilometers, bordering the Himalayan kingdom of Nepal.
Gorakhnath temple, the seat of the Savisam sect of Hinduism, is here in Gorakhpur after which the city is named. Kushingar, about 55 kilometers away from Gorakhpur, is a pilgrim center of Buddhism, where Lord Buddha attained parinirvana (liberation). Maghar, a place in the district of Sant Kabir Nagar (Khalilabad), some 35 kilometers away from Gorakhpur, where Kabir Das, a great poet of Hinduism is buried.
In 2016, the total population in the area is 1,741,000 of which Catholics number only 3,323 mostly settled in the city of Gorakhpur. Out of 17.41 million people, 84 percent of the people are Hindus and 15 percent Muslims. The population density is 715 per square kilometers. The sex ratio is 933 women per 1,000 men. The literacy rate is about 40.01 percent. The literacy rate for men is 53 percent and for women only 20 percent.
People speak Bhojpuri (dialect), Hindi, and English in this area.
The diocese of Gorakhpur was erected on June 19, 1984, by Pope John Paul II. Father Dominic Kokkat, CST, was appointed its first bishop.
This diocese is the fruitful outcome of the silent and long perseverance of the Catholic faithful and their spiritual leaders. The roots of the Catholic faith here can be traced to a group of native Catholics from then Bethiaraj who migrated to this city as agricultural laborers in the 1800s during the time of British colonialism. However, the Handbook of Bengal Mission says that the Roman Catholic mission undertaken by Father Joseph Maria around 1740 and some Italian missionaries under the guidance of the apostolic vicar of Patna appeared to have given pastoral assistance in Gorakhpur when Father Raphel of Livorno was appointed chaplain in Gorakhpur. He built St. Joseph's Church, now the cathedral, in 1860. In 1886, Gorakhpur became part of the diocese of Allahabad.
By 1906, Gorakhpur had become the headquarters of various mission outstations, thanks to work done by Father Joseph Hiki and Father T. Considine between 1892 and 1906. Gorakhpur-Banaras prefecture was erected in 1947 and was entrusted to the dynamic leadership of the late Monsignor Malenfant, OFM Cap. In 1958, the headquarters of the prefecture was moved to Varanasi. In 1967, the Gorakhpur-Banaras prefecture had its name changed to Banaras-Gorakhpur prefecture. In 1970, this prefecture became the diocese of Varanasi. The late Father Basilius Panat CST, founder of the Little Flower Congregation, at the invitation of Monsignor Malenfant, visited this mission and worked out the modalities for sending his priests to engage in pastoral and evangelical activities in Gorakhpur between 1969 and 1970.
The members of the Little Flower Congregation have been working in this area since 1970. Faith formation, action for social transformation, proclaiming the healing message of Christ, education, and ecumenical and inter-religious work are some of the main apostolates of the diocese. Besides taking care of the Catholics, the main thrust of the diocese is to work for the empowerment of the rural poor irrespective of caste, creed and religion. The diocese has established the Purvanchal Gramin Seva Samity (PGSS) as its coordinating center for social action as well as a training center.
A large portion of the population inhabiting the rural areas are economically poor. Their main occupation is agriculture. They grow paddy and wheat. However, the Maharajganj district is rated highest for paddy cultivation in Uttar Pradesh.
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