The population in Salem diocese was 5,091,262 according to the 2001 census. (The population of the whole country is about 1 billion). Tamils, Telegus and Kannadigas are the major ethnic groups. Tamil, Telegu and Kannada are the languages spoken in the diocese.
The Diocese of Salem comprises the civil districts of Salem and Namakkal. In 1623, people in Southern Kongunadu, part of Salem District, under Madurai Nayakkars, accepted Christianity through Father Robert De Nobili, SJ, and his successors, the Portuguese Jesuits of the Madurai Mission. Around 1654, the Italian Jesuits of the Mysore Mission set up their residence near Hosur.
In 1687, the Mysore Mission labored in the entire area of the present diocese. Father De Cunha died in 1711 at Kapiganathi near Hosur. Even after the suppression of their Society, the Jesuits under the jurisdiction of Cranganore, worked to the last in the field.
In 1785, during Tippu Sultan's rule, Monsignor Champenois, Superior of the Malabar Mission, was entrusted by Rome with the Mysore Mission, which took care of Salem. He was the first bishop to visit Salem. Salem Mission was brought under British rule, and he left in charge there Father Abbe Dubois, who strove to restore the mission.
The area continued to depend on the Coromandel mission. Later it came under the Vicariate Apostolic of Pondicherry, which in 1886 became an archdiocese. This set up continued till 1930, except for Hosur Taluk, which had been entrusted from 1861 to the area of Mysore, and the southeast, which was joined in 1899 to the Diocese of Kumbakonam.
On May 26, 1930, the Diocese of Salem was erected from areas under Salem District and as well as areas under the jurisdiction of Pondicherry diocese (six parishes), Kumbakonam diocese (three parishes), Mysore diocese (one parish). In 1943, the western portion of Mettur Taluk (two parishes) were added.
In 1949, Salem diocese was entrusted to an Indian, its second bishop, Bishop V.S. Selvanather. The Diocese of Dharmapuri was carved out from the Diocese of Salem on Feb. 28, 1997. The pope appointed Monsignor Joseph Antony Irudaya Raj, SDB, the first Bishop of Dharmapuri.
Salem is the district capital. It is administered by a corporation headed by a mayor and a council of representatives. 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.
Salem is well connected by roads and railways and is also an important road and railway hub. The nearest airports are in Bangalore and Coimbatore cities.
The diocesan territory covers a land area of 9,624 square kilometers and includes the civil districts of Salem and Namakkal. Salem is the largest city in the diocese while Namakkal is an important town.
The per capita income in the diocesan territory was 20,475 rupees (US$451 as of October 2006). The major industries are in agriculture, garment manufacturing, automobile, electrical equipment, iron and steel manufacturing, tourism, tea, coffee and cardamom. Salem is also famous for its mangoes.
Government and private operators provide extensive telecommunication facilities in the diocesan area. The diocese is well connected by local cable TV networks.
Salem has extremes of hot and cold weather throughout the year. It receives close to 1,000 mm of rainfall annually.
The literacy rate in the diocesan territory is 66.25 percent.