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Historical Notes…

‘OFFICIAL SUPERIOR’S’ LETTER TO THE COLLECTOR OF MADRAS – 1842

In last month’s issue, it was written that Dr John Fennelly was nominated as ‘Official Superior and Channel of communication’ for the Roman Catholics in Madras and Mylapore, under the jurisdiction of the East India Company. In this context ,the Collector of Madras, Mr A Robertson, required certain information from the Official Superior. The following Letter sent to the Collector gives many interesting details:
Catholic Cathedral
Madras


17th February 1842, I have the honor to acknowledge your Letter of the 2nd instant requesting me to furnish you with information to be submitted to the Honorable Court of Directors on the following points.


1stly What is the supposed number of Roman Catholics in Madras?

2ndly What is the number of their Churches?

3rdly At whose expense and at what time have such Churches been built?

4thly By what priests are they now served?

5thly Under what Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction are such Priests or were supposed to be?

6thly What number of such Priests are or ,are supposed to be Jesuits?

7thly How many such Priests are of British origin?

8thly To what Nations do such as are not of British origin belong and do such Priests Speak the language of the people?

9thly What proportion of the Roman Catholic Population in the several Districts adheres to the Vicar Apostolic and the Priests acting under him and what Proportion to the Portuguese Priests?

10thly Whether the Priests acting under the Vicar Apostolic have c l a i m e d and obtained possession by Law or otherwise of any Churches or other property peviously in the possession of Portuguese Priests?

I have great pleasure in furnishing all the authentic information I possess on these several points.

1st The supposed number of Catholics in Madras and its Vicinity, including Royapuram, Vepery, Royapettah, St Thome, St Thomas Mount, Pallavaram, etc., amounts to 47,500 in Bellary, Kamptee, Secunderabad and in the adjoining districts there are 10,000 more-in Vizagapatam and Masulipatam, there are 700-in Poonamallee 600, and there are six other places 20 to 30 miles from Madras, viz Periapaulium, Marcanam, Seyoor, Callapakkam, Pulicat and Covelong. Those places contain 2000 Catholics. There are also in Cuddalore and a large adjoining district 15,000. There are other places, in which we are not able to send a Priest even once in a year, for example Jaulnak where the Catholics have complained to me that they have not been consoled by the face of a Priest for the last ten years. The aggregate of the Catholic population in such places is over two thousand. So the total Catholic population of the Vicariate is 70,000 – in which sum total no account is made of those states and parts of the Madras presidency, which are under the Ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of Pondicherry.

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