Diocese of Palayamkottai
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Population

The diocesan territory had a population of 2,723,988 as of the end of 2005. (The population of the whole country is more than 1 billion). Most residents are ethnic Tamils, Telegus or Malayalees.

Language

English, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu are the languages used.

History

Before the erection of the Diocese of Palayamkottai, this area was evangelized by the Society of Jesus of Madurai Jesuit Province. The history of Christianity begins from the time of St. Francis Xavier in 1542. The Madurai Mission then took care of the spiritual needs of Catholics. Some of the renowned Jesuit missionaries like St. John de Britto (1686-1688), martyred in Oriyur which is now in the diocese of Sivagangai, and Father Constantine Beschi, spent part of their missionary lives in this area and helped to strengthen the faith of Christians. From the beginning of the 20th century, diocesan priests from the Diocese of Trichirapalli cared for the spiritual needs of Catholics.

After the erection of the Archdiocese of Madurai, this area came its jurisdiction. Pope Paul VI on May 17, 1973, decreed the erection of the Diocese of Palayamkottai. Palayamkottai, one of the vicariates of the Archdiocese of Madurai, became the separate 13th diocese in Tamil Nadu Region, India. It remains one of the suffragans of the archdiocese. The nominated first Bishop of Palayamkottai, Bishop S. Iruthayaraj, took canonical possession of the diocese on Sept. 9, 1973, and was consecrated as the first Bishop of Palayamkottai on Sept. 12, 1973 at Palayamkottai by Archbishop P. Justin Diraviam of Madurai archdiocese.

Bishop S. Iruthayaraj pastored the diocese for 26 years and contributed to its growth in the various fields of spiritual, pastoral, educational, social, developmental and ecumenical activities. He voluntarily retired from his episcopal ministry in July, 1999. The College of Consultors elected Father Susai Marian as administrator of the diocese and he was approved by the Holy See to run the diocese till the new bishop was to be appointed. On Nov. 9, 2000, Rome announced Father Jude Paulraj, who was then Rector of Christ Hall Major Seminary, Madurai as the second Bishop of Palayamkottai. He was consecrated by Archbishop Arockiasamy of Madurai at Palayamkottai on Dec. 8, 2000. His motto is: In Your Name to Serve and Sacrifice.

Political

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.

Transportation

The diocesan area is well connected in terms of transport infrastructure by roads and railways. The nearest airport is in Madurai.

Geography

The diocesan territory covers 6,103 square kilometers and includes the entire civil district of Tirunelveli and one taluk from neighboring Tuticorin district. Tirunelveli is the biggest town in the diocese.

Economy

The per capita income in the diocesan territory was 19,092 rupees (US$416 as of September 2006). The major industries are farming, fireworks, matchsticks and tobacco.

Telecommunication

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

Education

The literacy rate is 76.09 percent.

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