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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Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore

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Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore
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With a land area of 11,348 square kilometers, the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore extends over the Pondicherry and Karaikal civil districts of the Pondicherry Union Territory and the civil districts of Cuddalore and Vilupuram of Tamil Nadu State. In 2016, the total population of the area was 7,404,977. Ethnic groups in the territory include Tamils and French.

The great forerunner of the archdiocese was the Carnatic Mission, which was started around the year 1700. This mission was also known as the "Mission of the Coromandel Coast" and also the "Malabar Mission".

Before the establishment of the Carnatic Mission in 1700, the Jesuit Fathers of the Madurai Mission, especially, St. John de Britto, came into the Gingee Kingdom after 1660 and preached the Gospel up to the Palar River, south of Madras. Some Religious belonging to various orders also looked after the trading centers on the coastal area such as Cuddalore and Porto Novo. The French Capuchins first settled in Pondicherry in 1674 and the French Jesuits in 1689. The Dutch chased away all the Religious in 1693 from Pondicherry. They could only return in 1699.

The boundaries of the Carnatic Mission were as follows: in the south and west was the Pennaiyar River, beyond which were the Madurai Mission and the Mysore Mission; in the east, the Bay of Bengal, excluding the area just surrounding San Thome, and in the north, Kurnool, including the Krishna and Godavari areas near the sea shore.

The continual wars in the 18th century, the ruin of Pondicherry town in 1761 and the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, badly affected this vast Carnatic Mission.

In 1776, the French Jesuit Fathers were replaced at the orders of Rome by the Paris Foreign Mission Fathers. Although the bishop of these new missionaries had all the powers of jurisdiction, he was not given the title of "Vicar Apostolic", but only "Superior of the Missions of the Coromandel Coast". Rome successively gave him jurisdiction over the other missions, in the Madurai, Coimbatore and Mysore areas, affected by the suppression of the Society of Jesus. So, around 1800, the extent of the Carnatic Mission was immense, although the workers were very few.

The Carnatic Mission was reorganized when new Vicariates Apostolic were created: the Vicariate Apostolic of Madras in 1832, of Madurai in 1836-46 and the Vicariates of Visakapattnam, Mysore and Coimbatore in 1845-1850.

Pondicherry became a Vicariate Apostolic of the Coast of Coromandel Mission on Sept. 1, 1836 with Monsignor Bonnand as the first Vicar Apostolic. This Vicariate Apostolic was raised to an Archbishopric on June 7, 1887, with Monsignor Laouenan as the first archbishop.

Subsequently, subdivisions of the archdiocese took place, with the erection of the new diocese of Kumbakonam in 1899 and of Salem in 1930. In a reorganization of the diocese by Rome in 1969, Kancheepuram and Madurantakam Taluks of Chingleput District were transferred to the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore and the Tiruvannamalai Taluk to Vellore diocese.

As the Archdiocese of Pondicherry extended over the Pondicherry Union Territory and the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu State, it was given a new title or name by Rome: "Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore" on Aug. 7, 1953.

The per capita income in the archdiocese territory is 22,089 rupees (about US$490). Major industries include trade, agriculture, tourism, fishing, alcoholic beverages, pharmaceuticals and textiles

Languages used in the archdiocesan territory include Tamil, French and English. The literacy rate in the area is 69.4 percent.


Languages used in the archdiocesan territory include Tamil, French and English. The literacy rate in the area is 69.4 percent.

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