125 years and still growing

125 years and still growing

A view of Rosario church.People of this diocese can be found all over the world today. Christianity is known to have come to India, a few years after Christ’s crucifixion through Apostle Thomas.

However, Christianity has gained ground in Canara- from Karwar in the North to Kasargod in the South through the Goan church. An independent Vicariate under Bishop Michael Anthony was established on March 15, 1853. Since then, the church in Mangalore has grown in all dimensions. On June 23, 1886 the Vicariate was raised to the status of a Diocese by the order of Pope Leo XIII.

Today, under the guidance of the present Bishop of Mangalore, Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza, the diocese basically comprises of the present Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and parts of Kasargod. There has been speculation about bifurcating the diocese in the future to carve out more compact diocese like Udupi and Mangalore.

The beginning

These Konkani speakers along the west coast of Peninsular India are believed to originate from the banks of the river ‘Saraswati’ (a tributary of the river Sindhu) which became extinct. There were three main waves of settlement of Konkanis in Canara: After 1560, because of the Inquisition; and after 1570 and 1683, because of natural calamity and political upheavals. Portuguese rulers of Goa tried to enforce cultural assimilation of Konkani Christians into the Western culture. Their personal names, food habits and even dress were made to conform to the contemporary European Christian standards. As long as the Konkani Christians tried to maintain a separate identity through their language, customs and culture, they were socially discriminated by the Portuguese.

The rulers of Vijayanagara and the Nayaks of Keladi encouraged the Konkani Christian migration as a useful human resource group in the economy of the region. Their abilities, ethics, discipline and loyalty were valued qualities. Agricultural land was available in South Kanara in plenty for cultivation. Gradually the Konkani Christians learnt Kannada and Tulu, but retained Konkani as their mother tongue, they built churches, organised parishes, started industries and were efficient agriculturists, promoting socio-economic development, establishing them as natural respected citizens in the land. 

Then came the rule of Mysore under Hyder Ali and Tippu Sultan between 1761 - 1799 AD. When South Canara was under their rule, the Konkani Christians were inadvertently enmeshed in the cross fire and suffered banishment to Srirangapatna. The fourth Anglo-Mysore war led to the liberation of Christians from captivity after 15 years. The British took over South Canara after the fall of Tippu Sultan in 1799 AD. Most of the Christians who survived the captivity returned to South Kanara. They resettled on the land and their land holdings were restored to some extent.

Diocese of Mangalore

Presently, the Diocese of Mangalore is a large and well organised integral part of the Roman Church under the Pope based in the Vatican. Some view it as having acquired similar ills that dog the civil governmental systems in vogue, lacking democracy. A feeling that the local church is creeping back to the pre Vatican II is spreading. There are moves underway to bring in more democracy into the functioning of Church matters universally under the guidance of the Roman Curia and Pope Benedict XVI. 

Rosario Cathedral is the mother church of the parishes of Mangalore diocese. Its high dome is impressively a smaller likeness of Vatican’s St Peter’s Basilica. It is now 443 years old and was established 1568. The oldest of the three pioneer Catholic churches in this region, the spot is believed to be the authentic one. An old weathered granite court of arms of the Portuguese can be seen near the entrance of the present Cathedral.

A Cathedral is usually the seat of the Bishop; though here for decades the Bishop resides at the Official Bishop’s House at Kodialbail a couple of kilometres away, which is steeped in history. Most of the past Bishops are buried near the high alter of Rosario, while several prominent people of times gone by are buried within the cathedral.

This Rosario Church was raised to the status of a ‘Cathedral’ in 1850 and the present city limits was originally a single parish under it.

In 2009, the interior was given an artistic facelift which has made its atmosphere sacred and aesthetic, often visited by many tourists.

It is today a dynamic and modern parish with a wide spectrum of activities and institutions in the heart of the commercial and official centre of the city of Mangalore.


Spread over an area of 9,425 sq kms, the Diocese of Mangalore has a population of 41 lakhs and Catholics number around 3.8 lakhs, in nearly 160 parishes. It is considered as one institution that has kept Konkani as a flourishing language. The clergy/priests within its ambit are estimated to be 400 plus. Religious women/nuns now touch the 2,000 mark in various dispensations. Many priests and nuns can be found serving other parts of the country and overseas.

The educational institutions from KG to PG and professionals are a plenty and increasing day by day. Also homes for the elderly, boardings, hostels, dispensaries, and asylums are run admitting the needy of all communities as per regulations. The entire region has benefited from this singular entity that stands in the name of God. The Diocese of Mangalore in these 125 years gone by has shown a remarkable upward trajectory in all spheres, except its demographic numbers, to continue its forward momentum of growth by opening more policies to the legitimate demands and rise to the concepts for ‘Empowering the Laity’  democratising its operations in keeping with worldwide trends.

The future points to dynamic change as visible in the total scenario of India.     

The Bishops of Mangalore diocese

Ever since the diocese was established in 1886, the following bishops have offered their services:

Bishop Nicholas M Pagani (1878-95),
Bishop Abundis Cavadini (1895-1910),
Bishop Paul Perini (1910-28),
Bishop Valerian J D’Souza (1928-30),
Bishop Victor R Fernandes (1931-55),
Bishop Basil S Peres (1955-58),
Bishop Raymond D’Mello (1959-64),
Bishop Basil S D’Souza (1965-96), and presently Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza.