A BRIEF HISTORICAL SKETCH
The Diocese of Mangalore embraces the entire District of Dakshina Kannada and Kasargod Taluk. It is bounded on the north by the Diocese of Udupi on the south by the Diocese of Kannur, on the east by the Diocese of Chikmagalur, Shimoga and Mysore and on the west by the Arabian Sea. The total area of extent is 5924.26 sq. km.
The earliest record of the introduction of Christianity into this region refers to the close of the XV century, whether Christianity was introduced here prior to that period, we are without date to go by. If conjectures and inferences may avail, it may not be improbable that some knowledge of Christianity was brought to this region as early as the first century of the Christian Era. The Syro-Malabar Christians maintain that Christianity was preached to them in the first century, and it is probable that this knowledge was not restricted exclusively to their own coast, but that it did penetrate into the northern seaboard as well. However that may be, it is certain that Christianity was preached on this coast towards the end of the XV century. Evidence shows that between the years 1498 and 1505 several priests, Fransciscans and of the Order of Our Lady of Mercy, worked in Cannanore and Calicut, and a few even laid down their lives for Christ and His religion, at the hands of the local inhabitants.
By the beginning of the XVI century, the Portuguese succeeded in opening settlements in Kanara, and with these settlements there came also Missionaries into the country. In 1510 Albuquerque conquered Goa, and this made it easy for the Portuguese to send reinforcements of Missionaries to the existing stations in Kanara and also to advance the work of evangelization. Several local Christians from Goa migrated to these settlements.
The local rulers were only too glad to welcome them as permanent settlers, as they were known to be good and industrious cultivators. By the middle of the XVI century we already find a sufficiently large community of Christians from Goa at a place known as Barcelore, four miles from Coondapoor. In 1526 a band of Fransciscan Missionaries opened a mission in Mangalore, and in 1570 Fr Vincent, who was at the time the Provincial of the Jesuits in Goa, sent thither a fresh batch of missionaries.
The Archbishop of Goa exercised his jurisdiction over the coast at this time. On 3 December, 1609, Pope Paul V extended his jurisdiction along the coast as far as Dharmattam.
The dawn of the XVII century saw the Portuguese influence in India on the wane. The English and the Dutch were engaged in continual strife for supremacy in India. The mission lost the support of the civil power, and several of the Missionaries were recalled to Goa. Deprived of Missionaries, the country soon fell into a state of spiritual destitution. To make matters worse, the Arch-episcopal See of Goa fell vacant and remained so for nearly twenty years. Father Andrew Gomez, an Indian priest, was appointed Vicar Apostolic of Kanara, but he died before the Bull of his nomination reached him, and things remained as they were.
In 1674 on the representation of the Carmelite Missionaries of Verapoly, the Holy See appointed Father Thomas de Castro, a Theatine Indian Priest, Vicar Apostolic of Kanara and Malabar. When he landed in Mangalore, he began to reside at Hampankatta in the plot were Milagres Church stands. He resided in a small house where a small Church was existing. He began to establish the Roman Jurisdiction in Kanara which extended up to the present District of Karwar in the north and Calicut Diocese in the south. In 1681, when Msgr Thomas de Castro was Vicar Apostolic of Kanara, Fr Joseph Vaz came to Kanara and worked in it for four years with great apostolic zeal and tact. On the 16th July 1684, Bishop de Castro died and was buried in the then existing Milagres Church.
The work of Fr Joseph Vaz in Canara is quite a sealed book yet. He was possibly the greatest missionary that worked in Canara. Though hampered on all sides over the issue of jurisdiction, he had time to convert heathens, ransom captives, reconcile enemies, settle family disputes, relieve indigent and attend to the sick whether Christian or heathen. It was thus he endeared himself to all. He found the Rosario Church at Poye - a structure covered with grass and palm. He built a Church at Barcelore and another at Gangolli, because the largest number of Catholics dwelt in those places. Throughout Canara, he erected many ermidas where he periodically celebrated festive occasions to keep alive and animate the true faith.
The period from 1784 to 1799 forms a sad page in the history of the Christians of Kanara. On 30th January 1784, the English Commander surrendered to the forces of Tippu Sultan, enraged as he was against the Christians, gave secret orders to his Commanders to seize every one of the Christians in the country and lead them captive to his capital. It was on the fateful night of Ash Wednesday, February 24th, 1784 that the cruel orders were carried out, and several thousands of the Christians from all over the country, presumably the great majority of them, were led captive to Srirangapatna. The history of their captivity is sad and gloomy. It may well be compared to the Egyptian bondage. Large numbers of them succumbed to the hard treatment given them, and larger still fell prey to the diseases so very common in all ill-kept, ill-fed and ill-cared for camps of prisoners. The survivors were driven at the point of the sword forcibly to undergo the Islamic rite. In 1799 Srirangapatna capitulated to the English; and with this ended the captivity of our Christians.
Portugal was now distracted by internal troubles which produced a state of confusion also in the Missions of Kanara. This state of affairs lasted till 1838, when Pope Gregory XVI authorized the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly to exercise jurisdiction over Kanara. This arrangement, however, did not fully meet with the desired effect, and factions continued still.
In 1840 the Catholics of Mangalore sent up a Memorial to the Holy See, in which they urged that Kanara should be constituted into a separate and independent Vicariate, as that was the only way of bringing peace to Kanara. After a lapse of five years, on May 12, 1845, the Holy See appointed Bishop Bernardine of St Agnes, a Carmelite, Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore, with jurisdiction over Kanara and North Malabar as far as the Ponnani River, and also over Coorg and that portion of the Nagar division lying west of the Tungabadra River. Though constituted into a Pro-Vicariate, it still continued to be part of the Vicariate of Verapoly. However, in 1850, Coorg and the part of the Nagar division were ceded to the Fathers of the Society of Paris Foreign Missions. In 1852, Bishop Bernardine left Mangalore for Rome.
On March 15, 1853 Kanara was entirely separated from Verapoly and formed into a Vicariate with Bishop Michael Antony of St Louis, a Carmelite, as Vicar Apostolic. In 1863 an attempt was made at a settlement between the jurisdictions of the Archbishop of Goa and of the Vicar Apostolic of Kanara. A Commission composed of representatives of the Holy See and the King of Portugal settled the question of boundaries between Goa and Kanara. By this arrangement the whole of North Kanara with the exception of a few parishes was given to the Vicariate of Mangalore, and to Goa were assigned a few parishes in South Kanara.
In 1870 Bishop Michael Antony resigned his charge and Bishop Mary Ephrem succeeded him on January 3, 1870 who governed the Vicariate until April 10, 1873. On his death, Father Paul Joseph Vidal of the Sacred Heart of Jesus became Pro- Administrator of the Vicariate. On March 24, 1876, the Vicariate was placed once again under Verapoly and Father Victor of St Antony was appointed Pro-Administrator Apostolic.
On September 27, 1879 the Holy See assigned Kanara to the care of the Jesuit Province of Venice. Father Nicholas Maria Pagani, SJ was appointed Pro-Vicar Apostolic of Kanara. On February 21, 1885, Kanara was erected into a Vicariate and its Pro-Vicar was elevated to the dignity of Bishop of Tricomium and Vicar Apostolic of Kanara. Bishop Nicholas Pagani was consecrated in Mangalore on October 25, 1885. A year later, on June 23, 1886, the settlement of boundaries between Goa and Mangalore arrived at in the Commission of March 5, 1863 was revised; Mangalore parted with the whole of North Kanara in favour of Goa, and the latter ceded to Mangalore its eleven parishes in South Kanara. By this arrangement, the Mangalore Mission was freed from the evils of double jurisdiction and became a compact homogeneous unit.
On September 01, 1886 Pope Leo XIII established the Indian Hierarchy, and it was officially proclaimed in a Council of the Bishops of Southern India, held in Bangalore on January 25, 1887. In virtue of this Hierarchy, Mangalore ceased to be a Vicariate and became the Diocese of Mangalore, and its Vicar Apostolic became Bishop of Mangalore.
Bishop Pagani died on April 30, 1895, after a strenuous life of seventeen years spent for the Diocese. It was in his time and under his care that the foundation was laid of the great Institutions: St Aloysius College, St Joseph’s Asylum at Jeppu, Father Muller Charitable Institutions at Kankanady, the Codialbail Printing Press and the Roman Catholic Provident Fund.
On December 2, 1895 Msgr Abundius Cavadini, SJ was appointed the Bishop of Mangalore. He was consecrated on June 28, 1896 at Bergramo, in Italy. St Pope John XXIII was the altar boy at the consecration of Bishop Cavadini. Bishop Cavadini SJ administered the Diocese for well-nigh fifteen years. He died on March 26, 1910, and on August 17, 1910 Msgr Paul Perini, SJ was appointed his successor.
Msgr Paul Perini, SJ, was consecrated in Mangalore on December 4, 1910. Thirteen years of his government saw many developments. The Seminary which so far had been engaged principally in training clerics for the Diocese now threw open its doors to other Dioceses. Several Missionary Stations with resident priests were opened with a view to lead back the erring schismatics to the bosom of the Church and to preach the Gospel to the all. Extensive parishes were divided and new ones created, thus giving Catholics greater facilities. Elementary education was much encouraged and supported and, not the least of all, an Association was formed for the benefit of the laity in order to train them to social work among their own. His services to the Diocese were graciously acknowledged by the Holy Father Pope Pius XI who was pleased to confer upon him the title of Assistant at the Pontifical Throne, Domestic Prelate and Count of the Holy Roman Church.
By an Apostolic Brief “Cum auctus fidelium grex” dated June 12, 1923, the Diocese of Mangalore was divided by separating from it the District of Malabar which was formed into a new Diocese called the Diocese of Calicut, and Bishop Paul Perini, SJ, was appointed its first Bishop. By this arrangement the now restricted Diocese of Mangalore was entrusted to its own clergy, and Fr Joseph Lawrence Pais was nominated Titular Bishop of Isaura and Apostolic Administrator of Mangalore. At that time, he was the Parish Priest of Kinnigoli Church. He however, declined to accept the appointment, and consequently the See remained vacant. On October 13, 1923 the Holy See appointed Bishop Paul Perini, SJ, Bishop of Calicut, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mangalore. Thus the See of Mangalore remained vacant without a Bishop from 1923 to 1928.
Bishop Valerian J. D’Souza (1928-30): Born in Karwar, brought up and educated in Mangalore, he belonged to Milagres Parish. When elected Bishop on January 14, 1928, he was the Chancellor and the Secretary to Bishop Paul Perini S.J. He was a member of the local clergy and the first local (Indian) Bishop of the diocese. He took charge of the diocese on March 11, 1928 and was ordained Bishop at Rosario Cathedral on April 15, 1928, by Bishop Paul Perini S.J. On his way to Rome, he visited his sister at Waterford where he underwent a surgery, during which he died, on August 14, 1930 at the age of 46. His mortal remains were interred in Rosario Cathedral on September 29, 1930.
Bishop Victor Rosario Fernandes (1931-1955): He was the Vicar Capitular and Procurator of the Diocese when he was elected Bishop. In his 24 years of tenure, he brought about many changes and many translations of devotional books, Catechism books, all church registers records were printed. He brought about uniformity in the administration of parishes, created 40
new parishes and he brought about lot of discipline among the clergy and the faithful. He died on January 4, 1955. His mortal remains were laid to rest in Rosario Cathedral. Bishop Basil S. T. Peres (1955-1958): When he was a Parish Priest of Bendur, he was elected as Condjutor Bishop of Mangalore. Bishop Victor Fernandes ordained him, and he succeeded Bishop Victor Fernandes. On his journey to Rome by ship, he died on April 28, 1958. His mortal remains were brought to Mangalore and were interred at Rosario Cathedral. He was known for his humane qualities.
Bishop Raymond D’Mello (1959-1964): Born in Kirem Parish and ordained Priest for Allahabad Diocese., he was a Vicar General there, when he was chosen Bishop of Mangalore. He was filled with missionary zeal as he was a missionary in North India. He was transferred to Allahabad in 1964. He died on November 24, 1971 and his mortal remains were interred in Allahabad Cathedral. Msgr William Lewis administered the diocese as Vicar Capitular until Bishop Basil S. D Souza was elected as Bishop of Mangalore.
Bishop Basil S. D’Souza (1965-1996): A native of Bondel, he was the Manager of Schools & Codialbail Press when he was elected Bishop. Archbishop James Knox, Nuncio to India ordained him Bishop. Bishop Basil attended the last session of the Second Vatican Council in Rome. During his tenure of 31 years he implemented almost all the directions of the Vatican Second Council. He got the liturgical books translated into Konkani. He introduced vernacular in liturgy and got the New Testament printed in Konkani. During his tenure churches, convents, schools, and institutions increased both in number and quality. He constituted the Parish Pastoral Councils. He tried to make transparent the parish administration. In order to assist priests of the diocese he introduced clergy maintenance system, uniform remuneration (congrua) and Priests Aid Fund that takes care of all the medical expenditure of priests.
Because of the initiative of Bishop Basil S. D’Souza, the Diocese of Mangalore took up a missionary adventure in the year 1981: The Bidar Mission, in the northern most part of Karnataka. From near to zero number Catholics the Bidar mission grew so much that it paved the way for the creation of a new Diocese called Gulbarga. In the initial stages, Bidar Mission and Gulbarga Diocese had all its missionary priests and religious sisters from the Diocese of Mangalore. The faithful of the Diocese of Mangalore supported the mission whole heartedly. Msgr Robert Miranda, a priest of the Diocese of Mangalore and a pioneer of Bidar Mission appointed as first Bishop of Gulbarga.
Bishop Basil governed the Diocese for 31 years and died of massive cardiac arrest on September 5, 1996. His mortal remains were interred on September 9, 1996 at Rosario Cathedral.
Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza (1996-2018) was the first Diocesan Rector of St Joseph’s Seminary when he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Mangalore. After the death of Bishop Basil, he became the Diocesan Administrator on September 13, 1996. The Holy See nominated him the Bishop of the Diocese on December 18, 1996. He was installed as Bishop of Mangalore on December 27, 1996.
In 2000, Bishop Aloysius inaugurated the first ever Bible in Konkani language. He popularized the Bible reading; got the pocket edition of the New Testament printed and made it available to people at a low price. Due to his efforts, the diocese has two Medical Colleges, one Engineering College, many educational centres, new parishes and religious communities. He took initiatives to empower the poor, sick and the marginalized. During his term and thanks to his initiatives, Pope Benedict XVI was pleased to erect the Diocese of Udupi on July 16, 2012 through the Apostolic Constitution ‘Cunctae Catholicae Ecclesiae’ and appoint Most Rev. Gerald Isaac Lobo as its first Bishop who took canonical possession of the new Diocese on October 15, 2012. This new Diocese took away 48 parishes and 68 priests from the mother Diocese, Mangalore.
When the Diocese of Mangalore celebrated its Post-Centenary Silver Jubilee in 2012, one of its projects was to venture into a missionary enterprise outside India. A request came from Bishop Rogatus Kimaryo C.S.Sp, Bishop of Same in Tanzania, Africa. The clergy and the faithful took up this request as call from God for evangelization. In the year 2013 four missionaries went to Same and the mission was inaugurated on July 21, 2013 by Most Rev. Aloysius Paul D’ Souza. Bishops of Tanzania and the Bishop of Mangalore with several priests, religious and over a thousand natives participated in the inauguration. The first church given to the Mangalore Africa Mission was blessed by the Bishop of Mangalore and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Bishop Aloysius Paul D Souza served the diocese until July 3, 2018, the day on which Msgr Peter Paul Saldanha was elected Bishop of Mangalore. Bishop Aloysius Paul D'Souza, Bishop Emeritus currently resides in St Joseph’s Seminary, Jeppu.
Most Rev. Peter Paul Saldanha (2018 - ) was born on April 27, 1964 and ordained priest on May 6,199. He was elected a Bishop on July 3, 2018 and ordained a Bishop on September 15, 2018, during which ceremony he was also installed as Bishop of Mangalore. In less than a year in office, Bishop Peter Paul has initiated several innovative socio-pastoral measures in the diocese. Among them are: developing a pastoral plan, socio-economic pastoral survey of the diocese, Laudato Si inspired programmes such as Vriksha Vandan, Jalabandhan; inter-religious harmony ventures of Bhandutva, Christian faith formation and transparency in pastoral administration. All these stem from his Episcopal motto: “To the praise of His glorious grace.’’
The Diocese of Mangalore has every reason to sing its magnificat for Gods' mighty graces that are at work here. The undivided dioceses of Mangalore and Udupi, so far have given 46 Bishops to the various dioceses in India and one in Pakistan. Four religious Congregations of women have emerged from the Diocese of Mangalore. Sr Mariam Baouardy, one of the first beginner members of Cloistered Carmel became a Saint. She lived 2 years in Mangalore. Mother Veronica, the Foundress of the Apostolic Carmel is declared Venerable and Msgr Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas, the Founder of the Bethany Congregation is a Servant of God. Fr Joseph Vaz, once a missionary in Canara and Mangalore is declared a Saint. Pope John Paul II, who visited Mangalore on February 6, 1986 and Mother Teresa of Kolkata who visited Mangalore 4 times are now venerated as Saints. This explains itself the depth of faith of the Christians in the Diocese of Mangalore.