The Mission of Visakhapatnam: (the Mother Diocese)
"If one seeks progress in future, first he has to look back and understand the historical and traditional values and also look at their present worth and value with a clear vision for the future." This adage holds good and makes us pensive in the present context.
155 years (1846-2002) of time is cer tainly a long stretch from the point of history of events, incidents and statistics. The history of the Diocese of Visakhapatnam can be traced back to the 17th century when the Vicariate of Golconda was erectred under the Por tuguese Padroado in 1669. The East Coast including Visakhapatnam was a part of the Vicariate. The two baptism registers maintained (one for Yanam from 1767 to 1831 and the other of the East Coast from Machilipatnam to Puri from 1806 to 1846) clearly reveal that some priests were visiting the Eastern Coast from Goa and Mylapore to cater to the spiritual needs of the faithful scattered hither and thither.
There are names of Capuchins, Theotines, Jesuits and Diocesans among the visiting missionaries. The baptism registers reveal that the missionaries used to visit Machilipatnam, Eluru, Kakinada, Yanam, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Bheemunipatnam, Puri, Cuttack etc. There were probably no catholics; the catholics might have been the European personnel, Tamilians or Goans, employed or engaged in business. The Vicariate Apostolic of Madras was formed under Propagation of Faith and thus East Coast and the rest were removed from Padroado jurisdiction.
The Vicariate Apostolic of Madras was formed under Propagation of Faith and thus East Coast and the rest were removed from Padroado jurisdiction. Yet we find Priests from Goa and Mylapore visiting the East Coast. There were military garrisons at Samlkot, Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram, Berhampore, Cuttack and in the Nor th at Kamptee, Jabalpur, and Jalna with military Chaplains at more impor tant places such as Kamptee, Jabalpur and Visakhapatnam. These chaplains were under the Vicar Apostolic of Madras.
Creation of the Pro-Vicariate:
155 years back on 16th March 1845 the new Pro-Vicariate of Visakhapatnam was created by a decree of Pope Gregory XVI separating it from the Vicariate of Madras and the area was entrusted to the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales. The mission territory, covered some 4,35,000 square kilometers, initially called the pro vicariate of Visakhapatnam, was entrusted to the MSFS founder himself, Father Mermier. It is interesting to note the Almighty’s provision that the Indian mission formed an integral par t of the very foundation of the MSFS congregation. Visakhapatnam has a special place in the heart of all the MSFS because this was the very star ting point of an extraordinary missionary development.
It included the central India, major parts of Orissa and the Northern part of Andhra Pradesh upto the river Godavari. Roughly the boundaries were Godavari, Bay of Bengal, Mahanadhi and Narmada Rivers. It was estimated then that 6000 catholics scattered in this vast area were chiefly European Personnel, Tamilians, and Goans. Missionaries began to learn the local languages, such as Telugu, Oriya, Hindi and Tamil even the Tribal dialects like Kui, Kurki etc. Thus their sufferings and labours brought abundant fruits. The missionaries remain in the hear t of our hear ts as the silent and unseen par tners of all the Gospel-fruits.
In 1850 the Mission of Visakhapatnam became the Vicariate Apostolic and in 1886 a full fledged Diocese by the establishement of the Indian Hierarchy. “Tui filii India, administiri tibi salutis”: Oh India! your own sons will be your evangelizers, is the famous saying of Pope Leo XIII, by which he has created 17 dioceses in India. Out of which Visakhapatnam was one and for which we should really thank the Almighty.
The first division of the Visakhapatnam Diocese took place in 1887, the central Indian Part became the Nagpur Diocese. Raipur, Bastar, par ts of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh formed the diocese of Visakhapatnam. Later in 1895 Raipur was given over to Nagpur. At the time of the division in 1887 it was estimated that there were 6000 catholics in Nagpur and 10,000 in the diocese of Visakhapatnam.
After the first world war, the number of missionaries coming from France had decreased. So Bishop Rossillon, the then bishop of Visakhapatnam invited the Vincentian Fathers from Spain to work in the diocese and entrusted to them a par t of Orissa. In 1928 the Cuttack diocese, was erected separating a par t of Orissa from the diocese of Visakhapatnam, with Koraput, Kalahandi, Bolangir and a par t of Ganjam, all in Orissa, still remaining in the diocese of Visakhapatnam along with Bastar state of Madhya Pradesh. After the division there were 9973 catholics in the diocese of Visakhapatnam.
In 1957 and in 1966 Bishop Joseph Baud gave away to the diocese of Cuttack the remaining par ts of Orissa keeping only the plains of Parlakemundi where Telugu is spoken. Bastar was entrusted to Raipur in 1966 which later formed a separate diocese in 1972. The diocese of Srikakulam comprising civil district of Srikakulam and par ts of Vizianagaram District was formed in 1993.
Oh! what a wonder of God’s Providence:
The diocese of Visakhapatnam has had a very impressive growth. The first diocese of Visakhapatnam was spread over five states, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chatisgarh, Maharashtra. The original mission has given birth to 13 other Ecclesiastical units, including 3 Archdioceses. Thus the diocese of Visakhapatnam can very well be called the Mother Diocese.
The present Diocese of Visakhpatnam measures only one fifth of the area in the year 1886 with Nor thern districts of Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, and East Godavari. For the purpose of smooth and facilitative administration, the Diocese of Visakhapatnam is divided into 4 Deanaries.
- Visakhapatnam Urban
- Visakhapatnam Rural
- East Godavari
The enterprise of building up the Diocese of Visakhapatnam and bringing the faithful closer to God the Almighty, the following pastors have occupied the See:
- Most Rev. Theophile Sebastian Neyret
- Most Rev. Jean Marie Tissot
- Most Rev. Jean Marie Clere
- Most Rev. Peter Rossillon
- Most Rev. Joseph Baud
- Most Rev. Ignatius Gopu
And the seventh is the present pastor Most Rev. Kagithapu Mariadas the first son of the soil to lead the diocese of Visakhapatnam. The Diocese of Visakhapatnam is indeed very much proud of being served by the bishop who has had a vast experience and an excellent scholastic record apar t from being a linguist. The bishop is well known for his Administrative abilities. To administer a big diocese of vast area, with different religious congregations is infact an ordeal. With the experience and foresightedness the bishop is able to inculcate a deep sense of belongingness in the diocesan community, the local church. Under the dynamic and zealous leadership of Bishop Most Rev. Dr. K Mariadas, the diocese has a threefold development in the areas of , Spirituality Education and Society.
SPIRITUAL ASPECT : “To spread the flame of faith and love even far ther and thus give Christ to India and India to Christ”. With this motto the bishop has been guiding different congregations and religious under him. Since his taking charge as bishop of the diocese of Visakhapatnam i.e. from 26.1.1983 he has been successful in spreading the Gospel to every nook and corner of the Diocese. He is lucky to have good, committed and self sacrificing priests and religious who always co-operate and take par t in all pastoral works whole hear tedly. The diocese, of late, has taken up the evangelization work under the Bishop’s guidance. The team of evangelizers has been painstakingly spreading the message of the Bible to the remote people who are in dire thirst for the good news, through biblical playlets and folk dances, which really touch the hear ts of the people in their own language and culture. Bible Conventions, Mouna Dyanams, Christu Jayanthi Maha Jubilee Celebrations at various levels, Adoration in every parish on different dates are being conducted so as to quench the thirst of the faithful and make them spiritually strong.
SOCIETAL DEVELOPMENT : Number of educational institutions for both boys and girls and a B.Ed. College dedicated to St. Mary and a Junior College are being well maintained by the able priests and sisters to educate the people. Hospitals, Dispensaries, Homes for the Aged and disabled are well organized for the benefit of the Sick and the needy. Besides all these, through the social service society a number of welfare schemes such as; cyclone shelters, housing schemes, running and maintaining the boardings, mother and child welfare schemes, etc. are testimonies for the full fledged development of the God given mission. All these contribute to the building up of a civilization of truth and love.
The geographical extension of the present Archdiocese to three civil districts, fifty three parishes and 1,15,454 catholics are all open truths and testimonies that the mustard seed of faith once sown by the missionaries in Visakhpatnam had now grown so big as to make it the biggest Diocese in Andhra Pradesh, the most mystery that God has worked out amidst us.
The seed of Christian Faith which our forefathers sowed at such a cost of hardships, risks of life and even premature deaths, on this good ground that it bears fruit now, a hundred fold.