Diocese of Kottar
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Population

In Kottar diocese, the population is 1,738,250 at end of 2005. (The population of the whole country is more than 1 billion). Tamils and Malayalees are the major ethnic groups.

Language

Tamil, Malayalam and English are the languages used in the diocesan territory.

History

The area under the Diocese of Kottar has known the Christian Faith several centuries before the arrival of the Portuguese on the West Coast. Monuments recently excavated in a place called China-Mutton amply testify to this fact. The presence of St. Thomas Christians in places like Thiruvithancode (presently a small sub-station in the diocese) and Kottar has been attested by several fathers under the Padroado, a mission agency of Portuguese with patronage rights granted to it by the Holy See. 

However with the coming of Portuguese fathers a small section of the local people, whose descendants still form a significant part of the diocese, became Christians. They are known as Paravas. About 7 years after their conversion in Dec. 1544, over ten thousand fishermen, known as Mukkuvas, living on the sea coast from Poovar to Pallam were baptized by St. Francis Xavier.

With the renewed efforts of Sacred Congregation of Propagation of Faith, Christian fathers began to penetrate into the interior parts of the area. Initially attention was given to the conversion of the Nairs. There were several Christians those days from the Nair community especially around Nemon, five miles south of Trivandrum. It is to this community of early Nair converts that the great Martyr of the diocese, Devasahayam belongs.

The 18th century saw rapid growth of Christianity in the interior parts of the area, following a large-scale conversion of people belonging to Nadar community. Vencode and Karengadu were centres of such conversions. With the creation of the Vicariate of Verapoly the Church of Kottar came under the efficient supervision of the Carmelites. A Carmelite Bishop of Quilon Aloysius Maria Benziger, took pains to organise and strengthen the present Church of Kottar. Thanks to his recommendation to Rome, the present Diocese of Kottar was created in 1930 with Bishop Lawrence Pereira as its First Bishop. He was the third native Indian in modern times to become a bishop.

Linguistically Tamil has always been the language of the people of the area. Keeping, therefore, the linguistic aspiration of the people, Rome sent, as successor to Bishop Pereira, a Jesuit from Tiruchirapalli, Most Rev. Thomas Roch Agniswamy. Evangelization activities received impetus during his tenure. A great number of parishes, Church work stations and schools came into being. His special interest in the promotion of vocations ensured that by the time he left the diocese in 1971 practically all the priests of the diocese were from within the area.

Father Marianus Arokiasamy who succeeded him was committed to the implementation of the reforms of Second Vatican Council especially in the fields of liturgy, Catechetics, Bible and pastoral activity. The establishment of sixteen diocesan commissions, Pastoral centre, animation centre and youth centre and the erection of parish councils in more than fifty percent of parishes bear witness to those interest. Conscious of the needs of the wider Church he gladly sent his priests to serve in various capacities at national and international level. He was promoted as Archbishop of Madurai in 1987. Most Rev. Leon A. Tharmaraj, the fourth bishop, hails from this Diocese.

Political

Towns are governed by municipalities, where as villages and small towns are administered by local bodies called Panchayats. The members of the local bodies are elected by adult suffrage. 

Transportation

The diocesan area is well connected in terms of transport infrastructure by roads and railways. The nearest airport is in Thiruvanathapuram, the capital city of neighboring state of Kerala.

Geography

In a land area of 1,665 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers Kanyakumari, the southern most district in India. Nagercoil, the district headquarters, is the biggest town in the diocese. Kanyakumari, Marthandom, Thuckalay and Kulithurai are other towns in Kottar diocese.

Economy

Rupees 17,591 (US$381 as of Sept. 2006) is the per capital income in the diocese territory. Farming, fishing is the major occupations. Industries based on rubber, coconut and jute are well developed in this area. Tourism is one of the major revenue earners for this district and Kanyakumari is a popular tourist and religious destination for many Indians.

Telecommunication

Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area. The diocese is well connected by local cable TV networks.

Education

87.55 is the literacy rate in the diocesan territory. Cultural dimension: The diocesan area is rich in cultural heritage.

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