THE BIRTH OF THE DIOCESE
The Diocese of Shimoga was erected on 14 November, 1988, by virtue of the Apostolic Decree of Pope John Paul II, entitled Id Spectantes. This Diocese initially comprised of two civil districts: Chitradurga and Shimoga. Shimoga district was separated from the Diocese of Chikmagalur and Chitradurga from the ArchDiocese of Bangalore. This is the eighth Diocese in Karnataka and is a suffragan of the Metropolitan See of Bangalore.
In 1997 during the time of reorganization of districts, certain places from the districts of Shimoga and Chitradurga were put together to carve out the new district of Davangere, which came into existence on 15 August,1997. Thus, the Diocese of Shimoga now comprises of three civil districts namely Shimoga,Chitradurga and Davangere.
At present the Diocese has 20 parishes, 10 independent mission Centres with resident priests, 20 sub-stations. There are 50 diocesan priests and 18 religious priests working in the Diocese. About 200 relgious sisters belonging to 23 different religious congregations render spiritual, educational and health services in the Diocese
On 14th November, 1988 the Rt Rev. Msgr. Ignatius Pinto, Vicar General, Archdiocese of Bangalore was appointed its First Bishop by His Holiness Pope John Paul II through his Apostolic Letter "Bonevolentiam Quidem Nostram." The Episcopal Ordination of the first bishop of Shimoga took place on 31st January,1989, at the Sacred Heart Cathedral ground, Shimoga. He was promoted as Archbishop of Bangalore on 10th September 1998 and installed on 25th November, 1998.
In 2000 the Holy See appointed Most Rev. Dr. Gerald Isaac Lobo as the Bishop of the Diocese of Shimoga. He was ordained Bishop by Archbishop Most Rev. Dr. Ignatius Pinto, on the 20th March 2000 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
HISTORY OF SHIMOGA DIOCESE:
The proclamation of the gospel in the region of Shimoga-Chitradurga dates back to the sixteenth century under Polygars or Nayakas. Christianity found its way into the dominions of the Nayakas.
Nayakas and Christianity:
The Nayakas of Ikkeri, later, of Bidnur, favoured many Catholic priests with their benevolence. Eg: when the Viceroy of Goa, Conde de Lin Lars went in person to Barcelor on 7.3.1631 for talks with Virappa Nayaka; there was with him D. Joao da Rocha. Bishop of Athojia.
In 1653, Fr. Goncalo Martins accompanied by Ramoji Sinai Quothary, was at the court of Shivappa Nayaka on a peace mission, at Bidnur, now called Nagar. In 1658-59 Shivappa Nayaka is also said to have been in good terms with Fr. Spinola S.J. and reported to have allowed him to build churches in his dominions.
Recommendation for Bidnur Empire as Diocese with an Indian Bishop:
Severine Silva the author of the book titled “History of Christianity in Canara” Vol. I says that the king Shivappa Nayaka desired to convert the Bidnur Empire into a Diocese and have an Indian Bishop as its head. Fr. Andrew Gomes, who in 1649 was sent as a missionary to Canara was selected for the post and his name was recommended to the Holy See. This recommendation was accepted. The order was brought by Fr. Pedro Borges. Unfortunately before Fr. Borges reached Goa, Fr. Gomes died. (Page No. 55). Severine Silva here mentions the source for this important event, i.e. Mitras II, 45, Leonardo Paes: Pront., das Dif. Indie. Filotelo Perreira de Andrade: Andrew Gomes.
First Church of the Region- Now in the Diocese of Shimoga:
The first historical reference available about the existence of a church at Bidral town itself (or Bidnur, later Hydernagar and now Nagar) dates back to 1681-84 when Blessed Fr. Joseph Vaz, constructed a church in honour of Our Lady of Good Success. A new church was put up in 1723 – 1725 by Rev. Fr. Sebastino de Rego. This church crumbled after some years and in that place now stands a tall cross. Later the church was dedicated to our Lady of Victories. This is the first church of the region which now forms part of the Diocese of Shimoga.
Change of Administration:
Under Paris Foreign Mission Society: At the end of the seventeenth century (17th C), the Paris Foreign Mission Society with its seat at Pondicherry took over the administration of the Mysore Mission which was formerly under the jurisdiction of Goa. Mysore Mission was dismembered from Pondicherry on 16-03-1845. It was divided into three districts: Nandidoorg (Bangalore), Ashtagram (Mysore) and Kadur (Shimoga) corresponding to the three great unit divisions of the time. The Kadur division comprised the present civil districts of Shimoga, Chitradurga, Davangere and Chikmagalur. This set-up remained in force until 1888, when the three latter districts were separated from Shimoga.
Vicariate of Mysore elevated to Diocese: The Mysore Mission became a Vicariate Apostolic in 1850 and entrusted to Msgr. Charbonnaux. In 1886, the Vicariate of Mysore was elevated to Diocese. On 13-02-1940 Bangalore was separated from Mysore, which included the district of CHITRADURGA. But the present district of SHIMOGA remained a part of the diocese of Mysore.
Formation of the Diocese of Chikmagalur: On November 16, 1963 by the Apostolic Constitution “Indicae Regionis Canditio” of Pope Paul VI three more districts, Chikmagalur, Hassan and Shimoga, were separated from the Diocese of Mysore to form the diocese of Chikmagalur. The first Bishop of the Diocese was Most Rev. Dr. Alphonsus Mathias. District of Shimoga was known as “District of Nagar” till the beginning of the 20th Century. The present city of Shimoga was a village and it was raised to the category of a town in about 1830.
Chitradurga District under Shimoga Diocese:
As we can see in the register of books, the first baptism given by a French Priest in the Shimoga Parish was at Harihar on 27-07-1847 and the first marriage blessed also at Harihar on 04-08-1847. The church in Chitradurga was constructed in 1869-1870 by Fr. Kleiner of Shimoga.
GEOGRAPHY AND POPULATION
Shimoga Diocese is located in the very heart of Karnataka in the mid south-western part of South India. The total area of the Diocese is 21,405 square kilometres. There are three district viz. Shmoga, Chitradurga and Davanagere comprising of 19 talukas and 3,138 villages in the Diocese.
The civil distrcit of Shimoga is often refered to as the Rice Bowl of Karnataka. It is situated in the mid region of the Western Ghatsand lies along the Sahyadri mountain ranges of Malnad (thickforest ranges).
The world famous Jog Falls is situated in Sagar Taluk of Shimoga district. Bhadravati, a taluk head quarters of Shimoga district is an industrial nerve centre. While Davangere has an industrial and commercial importance, Chitradurgahas a historical fort for its centre of attraction.
Geographically so vast, yet in terms of Catholic population Shimoga is the smallest of the eight Dioceses of Karnataka. In the vast ocean of 73,46,000 people only 20,506 people, i.e. 0.28%, are Catholics.
Caste system is prevalent among the people. Lingayats and Vokkaligas are the dominant castes. Dalits or harijans (scheduled caste) comprise 15% of the total population of the three districts. The total rural population of the three districts is 41,50,808 and that of urban area is 31,95,192. The total population of the scheduled castes is 8,24,491 and of scheduled tribes is 4,11,311.
There are a number of social problems, namely, dowry, alcoholism, child labour, bonded labour, etc. This is mainly due to lack of awareness and motivation in life. Out of 4,247 families, 1,348 families face one or the other kind of social problems. About 69.58% of these families face the problem of alcoholism and another 15.95% suffer from smoking. This is very alarming and dangerous for their health and progress in life. Out of 20,506 Catholics 664 are disabled and handicapped. About 560 of them suffer from physical disability and the remaining 104 suffer from mental disability. Health and hygiene are just satisfactory among the Catholics in the Diocese. About 765 families have been affected by some disease or the other. Only about 2,972 families have access to the government hospitals.
Among the three districts of the Diocese, Chitradurga and Davangere are constantly drought prone areas. The people who live in these regions are by and large poor. 43.82% of the total 4,247 families belong to an annual income group of below Rs. 22,000.00. In other words these 1,861 families are below poverty line. Families who have an annual income of Rs. 2 lakhs and more are just 2.4%. People who are below poverty line struggle hard to make both ends meet. They solely depend on daily wages.
During Certain times of the year it is not possible to get work on a regular basis. Out of 4,247 families, only a meagre 10.12% have their own piece of land, 90% are landless day wagers. 89.30% of the little land owners own a maximum 3 acres of land which is inadequate to support them and 45.81% own just less than half an acre of land.
This being the economic condition of the Catholic families, values such as education, training, health, etc., fall into insignificance amidst their struggle to earn their daily bread. 39.30% of the families do not have a house of their own. The number of families owning a tiled house is 67.86% while 107 families live in thatched houses. Among Catholics 43.06% of the employed population is daily wage labourers and only 4.59% is engaged in some kind of business.
The literacy rate of Shimoga and Davangere districts is 63% and that of Chitradurga is 52.3%. The illiterate Catholics form around 12.66%. The literacy level in the Diocese is very low. The Catholics who have studied up to the level of primary school is 24.67%, secondary is 20.13% and high school is 23.26% which according to present standards is below minimum. Only 14.8% have studied up to college and a negligible 4.4% have gone for technical studies.
The above figures indicate that there is absolutely no chance or way open for these poor students to acquire the benefits of technical or higher education. Accordingly, the number of school dropouts is very high. Out of the total dropouts 46.58% are in the age group of 11-15 years and 46.38% are in 16-18 years. By this it is clear that the children lack facilities and opportunities to continue their education. Nobody has succeeded in obtaining State Administrative Services or other top civil positions.