The Decree of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, promulgated the Papal Bull, ‘Ex Primaevae Ecclesiae’ on 13th November 1952 during the reign of Pope Pius XII. The Archdiocese of Madras and the Diocese of Mylapore was amalgamated and established as the “Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore”. The Dioceses of Chingleput, Coimbatore, Ootacamund and Vellore are its suffragans as of date.
Origin of Diocese of Mylapore
The old Diocese of Mylapore was erected by Pope Paul V on 9th January 1606, by an agreement between the Holy Father and the King of Portugal. By virtue of this arrangement which was known as ‘Padroado’, the King of Portugal was vested with special powers to appoint Bishops and Priests in specified areas and to support them financially in their work of Evangelization. The padroado system and the arrangement suffered due to the civil disturbance and transfer of power in Portugal and was finally cancelled by the Holy Father in the year 1950 and the Diocese of Mylapore came under the jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide from 10th October 1950. The last padroado Bishop of Mylapore, His Excellency Dom MM Guerreiro was transferred on 2nd March 1951 to the See of Nampula in Mozambique in Portuguese East Africa. On Bishop Guerreiro’s transfer, his Vicar General, the Rt Rev Monsignor Francis Arthur Carvalho was appointed, by the Propaganda Fide Congregation, as Administrator Apostolic of the Diocese of Mylapore the post which he held until the creation of the Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore.
Origin of Archdiocese of Madras
As regards to the Archdiocese of Madras, the Vicariate Apostolic of Madras was created on 14th July 1832 but the first Vicar Apostolic declined the appointment, due to which the Holy See nominated Rt Rev Dom Pedro de Alcantara O.C.D., the Vicar of Bombay, as the Interim of Madras by Brief: “Pastorale Officium” on 5th March 1833. On the 21st of April 1834 by Brief: “Ex debito Pastorali” the Holy See nominated Rt Rev Daniel O’Connor O.S. Aug. as Vicar Apostolic, and on his arrival in Madras in August 1835, Rt Rev Dom Pedro de Alcantara returned to Bombay. This Vicariate Apostolic was raised to an Archiepiscopal See on 1st September 1886 during the reign of Pope Leo XIII and from this year onwards the Archdiocese of Madras functioned under the jurisdiction of the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide.
Creation of Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore
At 10 00 am on the 27th of November 1952, the Administrator Apostolic of Mylapore received an official communication from the Pro-Nuncio Apostolic of India that the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda Fide had by a decree dated 13th November 1952 dismembered the Diocese of Mylapore and the Archdiocese of Madras and constituted three distinct Ecclesiastical units as follows: From the dismembered parts of the Archdiocese of Madras, in the territory of the Civil Districts of North Arcot and Chittoor a new Diocese of Vellore was created. From the dismembered parts of the Diocese of Mylapore, in the former territory, a new Diocese of Thanjavur was created. From the remaining parts of the Archdiocese of Madras and the Diocese of Mylapore, in the city of Madras and district of Chingleput, a new Ecclesiastical unit called Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore was formed. It was also decreed that the Church of St Thomas hitherto the Cathedral of the Bishop of Mylapore is to become the Cathedral of the new Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore, with St Mary’s Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Madras as co-cathedral of the new Archdiocese. For the time being, His Grace the Archbishop of Madras – Mylapore would be the Administrator Apostolic of the two Dioceses of Vellore and Thanjavur.
The Papal Bull ‘Ex Primaevae Ecclesiae’, further decreed that, ‘the Diocese of Vellore be entrusted to the Salesian Congregation of Don Bosco, the Diocese of Thanjavur to be entrusted to the Diocesan Clergy, and the Priests working in the various Dioceses, on the day this Bull was issued will remain incardinated to that Diocese. The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore which already had 9 suffragans at that period was given two more suffragans – Vellore and Thanjavur. The Archdiocese therefore had a total of 11 suffragans till 9th September 1953 when, with the re-organization of the Ecclesiastical provinces in India, the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore was given two suffragans only – Coimbatore and Vellore. In November 1969 by a Decree from Rome, on the request of the respective ordinaries, some parishes, from the Archdiocese of Pondicherry were brought under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. They are: Manambathy Kandigai, Sancta Maria Mission – Palliagaram, Thatchoor, Madurantagam, Acharapakkam, Malligapuram and Cheyyur. One more Parish named Alphonsapuram (K G Kandigai) belonging to the Diocese of Vellore was also annexed to the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore by the same Decree.
Archdiocese and its Prelates
The Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore functions in the capital city of Chennai (Madras) in the State of Tamil Nadu. On 14th November 1952, Most Rev Dr Louis Mathias SDB was nominated as the first Archbishop of Madras – Mylapore. His Grace was solemnly enthroned on 29th November of the same year in the Santhome Cathedral Basilica which was officially made as Cathedral of the new Archdiocese, while St Mary’s Cathedral was made Co-Cathedral of the Archdiocese. This great Salesian administered the Archdiocese till his death in 1965, followed by Archbishop R Arulappa who retired in 1987, and Archbishop Casimir Gnanadickam S J was installed in 1987. After his sudden demise in 1993, Archbishop Arul Das James was installed in 1994. After his death in 2004, the Auxiliary Bishop, Dr Lawrence Pius was Administrator till 22nd May 2005 when the present Archbishop, Most Rev Dr A M Chinnappa SDB took charge of the Archdiocese.
St Thomas – The Patron
St Thomas the Apostle, is the primary patron of this Archdiocese. According to tradition, St Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, walked on the sands of Mylapore and preached the Gospel to the people who embraced Christianity. This great Apostle was martyred on St Thomas Mount, near Mylapore in the year 72 AD and his mortal remains were buried in Santhome in the Church built by him. Through the centuries this church had undergone many changes. Finally a majestic Gothic structured Cathedral was built and consecrated on 01st April 1896 by the Missionary Portuguese Bishop of Mylapore, His Excellency Dom Henry Joseph Reed da Silva. This monument had undergone many renovations since then and was again restored in 2004 by Fr P J Lawrence Raj when a separate under ground Chapel was built over the tomb of St Thomas. This Chapel was blessed and consecrated by the then Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, Dr Arul Das James on 3rd July 2004.
Bifurcation of Chingleput Diocese
The Chingleput Diocese was bifurcated from the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore by His Holiness John Paul II on 19th July 2002, appointing Rt Rev Dr Antony Swamy Neethinathan as its first Bishop.
It is recorded that the First Synod of the Archdiocese of Madras- Mylapore was held in the Cathedral of St Thomas, the Apostle, in Santhome, from 24th to 26th of November 1953, presided over by His Grace the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, Dr Louis Mathias, SDB. On 26th November 2000, His Grace the Most Rev Dr Arul Das James solemnly inaugurated the preparations for the Second Synod of the Archdiocese at the Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni, Besant Nagar, Chennai. After twenty-nine months of intensive consultation and meetings, the historical Second Synod took place from 26th to 30th March 2003 at Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee with 407 participants having the main theme, “Towards the Fullness of Life”.
The Archdiocese now functions, under the able leadership of Archbishop Dr A M Chinnappa SDB and the Auxiliary Bishop Dr Lawrence Pius with 112 Latin Rite Parishes, 10 Syro-Malabar Personal Parishes and one Syro-Malankara Parish. These 123 Parishes are situated in the City of Chennai and the District of Thiruvallur; covering an area of 3160 sq kms. The total population is 99,99,256 of which 3,24,256 are Catholics. Languages spoken in the areas specified above are Tamil, English, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi.