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Archdiocese of Pondicherry

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Located in India, it is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal, divided on the north from the Dioceses of Madras and San Thomé (Mylapore) by the River Palar, on the west from the Diocese of Mysore by the River Chunar and the Mysore civil boundaries, and from the Diocese of Coimbatore by the River Cauvery; on the south by the River Vellar from the Diocese of Kumbakonam. Besides Pondicherry itself, and the portion of British India contiguous to it, the archdiocese includes all the smaller outlying French possessions, namely Karikal and Yanaon on the east coast, Mahe on the west coast, and Chandernagore in Bengal. The total Catholic population in French territory is 25,859, the rest, out of a total of 143,125, belonging to the North and South Arcot, Chingleput and Salem districts, all in British confines. There are 78 churches and 210 chapels, served by 102 priests (78 European and 24 native). The diocese is under the charge of the Society of Foreign Missions, Paris. The archbishop's residence, cathedral and diocesan seminaries are at Pondicherry. The Fathers are assisted by four congregations of women, viz., of the Carmelite Order, of the Sacred Heart of Mary, of St. Joseph, and of St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

The districts covered by the Pondicherry Archdiocese were originally comprised within the padroado jurisdiction of San Thomé, but mission-work did not extend beyond the northwest corner near San Thomé, and a small portion in the south which lay within the limits of the Madura mission. Pondicherry itself was only a village till some shipwrecked Frenchmen under Francis Martin settled there in 1674 and afterwards purchased it from the Raja of Vijayapur. About this time some French Capuchins arrived to take care of the Europeans in the new settlement, and a few years later (in 1690) some French Jesuits followed and began to work among the natives — both under Propaganda jurisdiction. From Pondicherry the Jesuits gradually proceeded inland and founded what was called the Carnatic mission about 1700. On the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773 the whole field was entrusted to the Paris Seminary for Foreign Missions, including the Madura districts, where the disbanded Jesuits continued to work under the new regime till they gradually died out. In 1836 (Brief of Gregory XVI, 8 July) the mission of Pondicherry was made into the Vicariate Apostolic of the Coromandel coast. At the same time the Jesuits (who had been restored in 1814) were placed once more in charge of the Madura mission, excepting the portion north of the Cauvery River, which was retained by Pondicherry. In 1850 the Vicariate of the Coromandel coast was divided and two new vicariates erected — those of Mysore and Coimbatore. On the establishment of the hierarchy in 1886, Pondicherry was elevated into an archbishopric with Mysore and Coimbatore as suffragan bishoprics as well as the Diocese of Malacca outside India. Finally in 1899 the southern portion of the archdiocese was separated and made into the (suffragan) Diocese of Kumbakonam — he whole province remaining under the same missionary Society.

Among its prelates were: Pierre Brigot, 1776-91 (superior with episcopal orders); Nicholas Champenois, 1791-1810; Louis Charles Auguste Herbert; 1811-36; Clement Bonnand, 1836-61 (first vicar Apostolic); Joseph Isidore Godelle, 1861-67; Francis Jean Laouenan, 1868-92 (became first archbishop in 1886); Joseph Adolphus Gandy, 1892-1909; Elias Jean Joseph Morel, present archbishop from 1909. Its educational institutions consist of the Theological Seminary at Pondicherry with 40 students and Petit Seminaire with 1102 pupils; St. Joseph's High School, Cuddalore, founded 1868, with 819 students, including 250 boarders, with branch school at Tirupapuliyur (founded 1883), with 289 pupils; at Tindavanam, St. Joseph's Industrial School, under the Brothers of St. Gabriel, with 50 pupils. Eighty other schools, mostly elementary, in various parts. Congregation of Sisters of St. Joseph (80 European and 48 native sisters) have for girls, boarding- and day-schools, orphanages, and asylums at Pondicherry, Karikal, Mahe, Chandernagore, Yercaud, Tindivanum, Arni, Cheyur, and Alladhy. Native Carmelite nuns have convents at Pondicherry and Karikal with 45 sisters. Native nuns of the Sacred Heart of Mary, established 1844 under the rules of the Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi, with 23 professed nuns, have schools at Pondicherry, Cuddalore, Karikal, Salem, and eleven other places, with total of 1626 pupils. The Native Nuns of St. Louis or Aloysius Gonzaga, 40 sisters, have a school and orphanage at Pondicherry and orphanage at Vellore. Its charitable institutions include altogether 20 orphanages for boys and girls with 534 orphans, besides 100 orphans in care of Christian families; 4 asylums for Eurasians, etc. 2 hospitals (Pondicherry and Karikal), besides homes for the aged.


Madras Catholic Directory (1910); LAUNAY. Histoire Générale de la Société des Missions Etrangères; IDEM, Atlas des Missions.

About this page

APA citation. Hull, E. (1911). Archdiocese of Pondicherry. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Hull, Ernest. "Archdiocese of Pondicherry." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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