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Post Box No. 6
Coimbatore 641 001
The diocesan territory stretches over 28,490 square kilometers and covers the civil districts of Coimbatore and parts of the civil districts of Erode and Karur in the state of Tamil Nadu, and part of the civil district of Palakhad in the neighboring state of Kerala. Coimbatore is the biggest city in the diocese with more than 1 million people. Erode and Palakhad are other important towns in the diocese.
In Coimbatore diocese, the population was 4,224,107 at the end of 2003. (The population of the whole country is 1 billion). Tamils and Malayalees form the majority groups in the diocese. Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telegu are the languages spoken in the diocese.
The diocese enjoys a pleasant climate throughout the year as it is situated near the Western Ghats, a range of hills in South India.
Coimbatore city is administered by a corporation headed by an elected mayor and council. The towns are managed by municipalities. The villages and small towns are administered by elected local bodies called panchayats.
The per capita income in the diocesan territory is 23,515 rupees (about US$533 as of January 2007). Farming, automobile-manufacturing, engineering and textiles are the major industries in the diocese. Cash crops such as cashew nuts, coffee, tea and spices are widely produced in the diocesan area.
Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area. The diocese is well connected by local cable TV networks.
The region is well connected by railways and roads. Coimbatore has its own airport.
The literacy rate in the diocesan territory is 75.54 percent.
History of the Diocese
Christianity took root in Coimbatore in the early 1650s. A small chapel was built and named after Saint Francis Xavier. A Jesuit priest called Father Garrie, who was living Karumathampatty, met the spiritual needs of Christians in Coimbatore.
From 1656-1773, the Jesuits did mission work here, but later, due to the suppression of the Jesuit order by the pope. Coimbatore was given to the care of the French MEP missionaries in 1775.
On April 3, 1845, Karumathampatty became the headquarters of Coimbatore diocese. Coimbatore, which had formerly been part of Pondicherry archdiocese, was removed from the archdiocese on Oct. 4, 1846. Father Marion Bresillac was consecrated first Bishop of Coimbatore. In honor of his patron saint, he dedicated the diocese and it's cathedral to St. Michael. He also planned to model the Cathedral after St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. He laid the foundation stone for the cathedral in 1850. The construction of the cathedral took 17 years and it was successfully completed with financial help from Propaganda Fide, now the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The cathedral was blessed by Bishop Gladius Maria Depomier, the third Bishop of Coimbatore, on April 28, 1867.
In 1847, a priest, Father Bacro purchased a small house surrounded by tobacco fields for 4,000 rupees. The area is now home to the Bishop's House, St. Michael's School, St. Joseph's Minor Seminary, Jeeva Jothi Ashram, I.C.C. Hospital, I.C. Convent, Presentation Convent Generalate, St. Joseph's Industrial School and Swamiar New Street in Fort, Coimbatore.
In 1870, Bishop Gladius Maria Depomier participated in the First Vatican Council. Father Joseph Bardou became the next Bishop of Coimbatore from Aug. 23, 1874. When a severe drought swept Coimbatore from 1876-1878, he helped the people to a great extent by making porridge containers. He died on Feb. 7, 1903.
Father Augustine Roy was consecrated Bishop of Coimbatore on Feb. 12, 1904. He founded the diocesan congregation of the Brothers of St. Michael. He resigned from his office on Jan. 12, 1931, and died on Dec. 12, 1937.
A new phase for the diocese began when Rev. Dr. Oubagaraswamy of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry became Bishop of Coimbatore. He was the first Indian bishop to be appointed in Coimbatore. He founded the Workers Association and arranged for Sundays be declared government holidays for all mill workers. He encouraged the Presentation Sisters to take up medical work, and founded many schools and hospitals in the diocese.
The diocese started to see a new dimension, when Father Francis M. Savarimuthu, a native of Coimbatore was consecrated its bishop on April 26, 1950. He participated in the Second Vatican Council.
In 1947, in remembrance of the diocesan centenary celebration, the grotto of the Sacred Heart was built on the western side of the cathedral. In 1962, the present cathedral took its form with an extension on both eastern and western sides
Father C. M. Visuvasam from Madurai archdiocese became Bishop of Coimbatore on May 3, 1972. During this time in office, the foundation stone for Jeeva Jothi Ashram, which stands as the pride of the diocese, was laid. He encouraged and helped the development of the Presentation Sisters and the Brothers of St. Michael.
In 1980, Bishop Ambrose Mathalaimuthu, the second son of the soil, also from the cathedral parish, was installed as the new Bishop of Coimbatore. He was transferred from the Diocese of Tuticorin. To commemorate his silver anniversary and the 150th year jubilee of the diocese, the portico of the cathedral was constructed and blessed on January 26, 1997. He was the first Indian bishop to retire after his long years of shepherding the diocese for 22 years. At the age of 75, he submitted his resignation to the Holy See in July 2000, which was accepted in July 2002. Father Lephonse Thomas Aquinas was appointed the new bishop on July 10, 2002.