In Marthandom diocese, the population was 1,738,250 at end of 2001. (The population of the whole country is 1 billion). Most residents are Tamils and Malayalees. Tamil, Malayalam and English are the languages used in the diocese.
It is firmly believed and traditionally accepted that Saint Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus Christ came to India in 52 A.D. Out of the seven and a half church communities established by the saint, the District of Kanyakumari has the privilege of having had the "half" church community established at Thiruvithamcode. Though there was a Christian community in Kanyakumari right from the beginning of the 1st century, it could not grow into a sizeable Christian community.
In the 16th century, Portuguese missioners arrived in Kanyakumari and as the result of their work, the Christian community there began to grow. Later, during the British regime in India, Protestant missioners also started their work among the people of Kanyakumari, which was in fact part of the erstwhile state of Travancore.
On Sept. 30, 1930, Metropolitan Mar Ivanios, together with a group of four people (a bishop, a priest, a deacon and a layman) reunited with the Catholic Church and paved the way for the Malankara Church to enter the Catholic communion. On June 11, 1932, by the Apostolic Constitution Christo Pastorum Principe, Pope Pius XI established the Syro-Malankara Catholic hierarchy, comprising the Archdiocese of Trivandrum and the Diocese of Tiruvalla.
Mar Ivanios, the pioneer of the Reunion Movement, extended his mission work to Kanyakumari district with Marthandaom as its center in 1934.
With the dedicated service of the priests and the religious from various dioceses and congregations, many parishes and stations of the Malankara Church could be established in the district of Kanyakumari.
Considering the linguistic, social and cultural heritage of the people of this region and the vast area of the Metropolitan Eparchy of Trivandrum, at the request of His Grace Most Reverend Cyril Mar Baselios, His Holiness Pope John Paul II, by an Apostolic Decree dated Dec. 16, 1996, bifurcated the Metropolitan Eparchy and erected the Eparchy of Marthandam having its headquarters at Marthandom. Thus the fourth diocese of the Malankara Catholic Church came into existence and Reverend Lawrence Mar Ephraem took charge as its first bishop.
The installation of Reverend Lawrence Mar Ephraem as the Bishop of Marthandom took place on Jan. 23, 1997, at the Christuraja Cathedral, Marthandom. His Grace Most Reverend Cyril Mar Baselios, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum officiated at the liturgical ceremony, and executed the Papal Bull of the erection of the new Eparchy of Marthandom.
After a prolonged illness, Bishop Lawrence Mar Ephraem died on April 8, 1997.
On April 16, 1998, Pope John Paul ll appointed Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom as the second Bishop of the Eparchy of Marthandom. He was consecrated bishop on June 29, 1998, and installed Bishop of Marthandom on July 1, 1998.
Towns are governed by municipalities, whereas villages and small towns are administered by local bodies called panchayats. The members of the local bodies are elected by adult suffrage.
The diocesan area is well connected by roads and railways. The nearest airport is in Thiruvanathapuram, the capital city of the neighboring state of Kerala.
The diocese stretches over a land area of 1,665 square kilometers and covers Kanyakumari, the southern-most district in India. Nagercoil, the district headquarters, is the largest town in the diocese. Kanyakumari, Marthandom, Thuckalay and Kuzhithurai are other towns.
The per capita income in the diocesan territory is 17,591 rupees (US$400 as of February 2007). Farming and fishing are the major occupations. The rubber, coconut and jute industries 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.
Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area. The diocese enjoys local cable TV networks.
The literacy rate is 87.55 per cent.