ORIGIN, DEVELOPMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF THE DIOCESE
1. Orign of the Diocese:
According to Everyman’s Encyclopedia the term ‘Diocese’ means a district under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and care of a bishop. The word in its present ecclesiastical signification was not in common use till about the 9th century. Paroikia [parish] being the more usual term up to the time. For a longtime the term was primarily used in the civil administration of the Roman Empire. Constantine [ 306 – 337 A.D ], the great Roman Emperor divided his empire into 13 ecclesiastical and political divisions. The ecclesiastical district was brought under a patriarch, while the political district under a practorian prefect. Later district dwindled to mean single metropolitanate or province and finally merely the sphere of jurisdiction of any one bishop. In the Catholic Church, Dioceses are erected by the Pope in Consortium of Bishops.
During the later part of the 19th century the expansion of the church activities in India invited the attention of the Pope in Rome to organize the administration of the churches. Pope Leo XIII established the Indian Hierarchy in 1886. Since then the church in India has grown into a number of ecclesiastical provinces, each under an Archbishop who has one or more suffragan bishops within his jurisdiction . In 1899 Pope Leo XIII created the diocese of Kumbakonam by the dismemberment from the Archdiocese of Pondicherry. Thus the parishes in Salem region with about 45,000 Catholics were divided among the Diocese of Kumbakonam and Mysore for thirty years from 1899 to 1930.
On 26th May, 1930 the Diocese of Salem comprising the civil districts of Salem and Dharmapuri was erected by Pope Pius XI canonically. It was created by merging 6 parishes from the jurisdiction of Pondicherry, three parishes from Kumbakonam and one parish from Mysore diocese in 1943. Two parishes in Mettur Taluk which were originally under the jurisdiction of Mysore Diocese were also added to the Diocese of Salem.
2. Development of Diocese Under the Various Bishops
(a) Rev. Dr. Henry Prunier [1930-1949]
He was the first Bishop of Salem and was appointed on September 14, 1930. He was entrusted with 12 parishes and twenty-six priests. Under his able guidance, the diocese witnessed a remarkable progress. The two taluks of Namakkal and Trichengodu in the south which had never heard of the gospel were evangelized. By 1949, when Bishop Prunier handed over the administration to the Indian Clergy, Christianity had spread over as many as fifty villages in Salem Diocese. To continue the mission of diocese, he increased the number of Indian clergy enormously. As the diocese did not have enough priests and postulants, he invited some priests from Kerala to do their ministry in Salem diocese. In order to train the priests he started St. Xavier’s Minor Seminary at Srirangapalayam.
He appointed Fr. Florance as the Rector of the seminary. He started many schools and hostels to cater to the needs of Salemites. He established St. Theresa’s Technical Institute for the young students to get training in technical education. In 1947, due to his severe illness, he resigned his post. However, he continued his service as an Apostolic Administrator for a couple of years. On 1st May, 1949, Rev.Dr.V.S. Selvanathar who was appointed by Pope Pius XII succeeded him as the second Bishop of Salem.
(b) Bishop V.S. Selvanthar [1949-1974]
He was the first Indian Bishop of Salem diocese. His contribution to the development of education in Salem district is praiseworthy. He started many schools and hostels. Since the diocese did not have sufficient number of priests, he sought the help of sisters to administer the newly started educational institutions. A Leprosy Relief Rural Centre was started as a unit of Salem diocese at Settipatti in a small rented house in 1955. In the same year the Christian Seva Sangam was established. He also setup a centre for social work to take care of socially backward people in the diocese in 1968. Bishop Selvanather was elevated as the Archbishop of Pondicherry and Cuddalore
(c) Rapid Development of Diocese under Bishop Dr. Michael Bosco Duraisamy [1974 – 1999].
On 10th June, 1974 Rev.Dr. Michael Duraisamy was consecrated as the third Bishop of Salem Diocese by Cardinal Krol He took keen interest in developing the Salem diocese. Many priests went around the villages to spread the Gospel. For the sake of efficient administration, parishes were grouped together to form seven vicariates. They are
(6) Arur and
In order to conduct pastoral programmes of the diocese, he built Epiphany Centre in 1977 A.D. He took an active part in fostering inter-religionus understanding among the people of Salem . Due to his farsighted planning and strenuous efforts, the diocese of Salem witnessed a double increase in the number of parishes and priests and educational institutions. He made the diocese grow economically strong and self-reliant in several fields.
He also started three hospitals, eleven dispensaries, two leprosy centres, three asylums for the mentally retarded, one home for the aged, and thirteen homes for the children and three centres for tailoring . Thus the Salem diocese witnessed tremendous growth in various fields till it was bifurcated in 1997. Since the diocese grew in strength, Bishop Michael Duraisamy initiated the move for the creation of Dharmapuri Diocese detaching the civil district of Dharmapuri from the Diocese of Salem. In order to fulfill the pastoral needs of the growing catholic population, the Dharmapuri Diocese was erected by the Holy See Pope John Paul II on Friday, April 25th 1997. His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy installed the new Bishop of Dharmapuri in the Sacred Heart Cathedral at Dharmapuri at 5:00 p.m. in the presence of the clergy, religious and the laity. The creation of new Diocese of Dharmapuri, which was carved out of Salem Diocese was a monumental sign of the rapid development of Salem Diocese. Bishop. Rev. Dr. Singaroyan was consecrated as the fourth bishop of Salem on 26th October, 2000 as a gift of Jubilee 2000. During this short span of time the Diocese has developed by leaps and bounds in many spheres especially in the spiritual aspect of the life of the people. The no. of parishes has increased from 38 to 43. He is an able administrator. As a benevolent shepherd of the flock of Salem Diocese, he has taken consistent efforts to fulfill the pastoral needs of the people by conducting retreats, seminars, mission preaching and many other awareness programmes. He is called the People’s Bishop due to his intimate rapport with the faithful by making frequent visits to all the parishes of the diocese.
3. Structure and Administration of the Diocese of Salem :
Canon law 369 states that a diocese is a portion of the people of God entrusted to a Bishop to be guided by him with the assistance of his clergy so that, loyal to its pastor and formed by him in to one community in the Holy spirit through the Gospel and the Eucharist, it constitutes one particular church [diocese] in which the one holy catholic and apostolic church of the Christ is truly present and active. Universal Church is a communion of different particular churches. The Pope who is the head of the college of Bishops maintains the unity of the Church Communion.
a) The Office of the Pope:
The Pope is the head of the Universal Catholic Church. He is the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, the successor of St. Peter, Prince of the apostles and the Supreme Pontiff who has the primacy of Jurisdiction over the universal church and the particular church
The Catholic Church is the largest organization in the world. Her hierarchy is the orderly disposition of the ranks and orders of the clergy to provide spiritual care for all the members of the Universal Church
Lord Macaulay in his famous essay on the Popes, said 175 years ago that there was no instrument of human policy so worthy of study as the church of Rome. The churches are controlled throughout the entire world through the hierarchy.
Its head is the Supreme Pontiff [Pope] who by divine law exercises supreme jurisdiction over the churches from the moment of his acceptance of the Papacy. The Bishops under him belong to this hierarchy by divine law where as the various other officials belong to it by ecclesiastical institution.
He is the successor of St. Peter. The famous dictum “ Where Peter is, there the church is” is not utopia, but the truth is inspired by divine light. He is often referred to as the Apostle to the Gentiles. No other man played so large a role in the propagation of Christianity as that of Peter. The Pope is the sovereign Head of Vatican city, which stretches over an area of 4,40,000 square metres. As an absolute sovereign, he holds in his hands the legislative, Judicial and administrative powers. Apart from these powers, as a spiritual head, he controls the entire catholic churches in the world. Thus the Salem diocese and the churches under its jurisdiction are functioning as per his directions given through his representatives.
For the practical governing of the church and the administration of its routine affairs, the Pope has a number of congregations, tribunals and offices in Vatican City and in Rome. Most of them have a Cardinal in charge. The highest ranking congregation is the Holy office. It is charged with matters of faith and morals. The Consistory prepares the appointment of Bishops and the establishment of diocese. The Cardinals form a group of corporation which is called a college. This is the senate of the church. Various nations of the catholic world have representation in this senate.
b) Bishops and Archbishops :
As the diocese forms a greater part of hierarchy of Catholic Church, it is worthwhile to study further about its administration with special reference to the Universal Church. Bishop is the term that in the early apostolic church was closely allied with the word elder. In apostolic succession a diocese is presided over by a Bishop who is its visible principle and foundation of unity, having proper, ordinary and immediate power.
The Archbishops are metropolitan Prelates in charge of an ecclesiastical province consisting of several dioceses called suffrangans. In his own arch- diocese he has the full powers of a Bishop, his jurisdiction over his suffragans is limited and defined by canon law. Since 1886, the Church in India has grown into a number of ecclesiasticcal provinces, each under an Archbishop who has one or more suffrangan Bishops within his Jurisdiction. At present there are three Archdioceses and sixteen dioceses in Tamilnadu. Salem is one among the dioceses of Tamilnadu.
c) Qualification of Bishop :
Canon law 378 enumerates the qualifications necessary for a candidate to become a Bishop of the diocese. It is required that he must be outstanding for his solid faith, good morals, zeal for souls, wisdom, prudence and human virtues endowed with the other talents which make him fit to fulfill the office. He should possess a good deal of experience as the ordained priest for atleast five years. He should possess a doctorate in sacred scriptures. A Bishop promoted to a diocese can not exercise the office entrusted to him unless he has first taken canonical possession of the diocese.
d) Insignia of the Bishop :
The insignia of the Bishop are the ring, the pectoral cross, the pastoral staff, the vestments, the mitre and the throne.27 These are necessary for the bishop while he celebrates mass and administers various sacraments in cathedral and other churches that are under his jurisdiction.
e) Functions of Bishop in the Diocese :
The degree on the pastrol office of the Bishops in the church is one of the important decrees which restores the true image of the Bishop in his diocese. The diocese is the basic cell in the church and centres on the Bishop surrounded by his priests and his people28. The Bishop is the guardian of the word of God. 29 Following are the functions performed by the Bishop of Salem Diocese.
i) Bishop as Paster :
The canon laws 383 to 394 explain the important functions to be performed by the Bishop in a diocese. He is concerned with all the Christian faithful who are committed to his care regardless of age, condition or nationality. He attends to Presbyters with special concerns and listens to them as their assistants and advisers. He protects their rights and sees to it that they correctly fulfill the obligations proper to their state30.
ii) Fostering of vocations:
As much as possible the diocese bishop is fostering vocations to the different ministries and to the consecrated life.
iii) Bishop as Sanctifier:
The bishop’s duty of sanctifier is carried out in the day-today life of the diocese by the opportunities provided by the eucharist sacrifice and the reception of the sacraments. He presides frequently over the celebration of the eucharist in the cathedral church or in another church of his diocese especially on Holy days of obligation and other solemnities31. He represents his diocese in all its jurisdiction affairs.
iv) Pastoral Visitation :
It is an efficient means and canonically proved a way of relating himself to the religious apostolic activities carried out in the diocese of Salem. As far as the diocese of Salem is concerned, the bishop visits parishes under his jurisdiction at least once a year. He comes into contact with the priests, religious and faithful entrusted to him during his visit. The bishop has the obligation to make the pastoral visitation of his entire diocese every five-years. He has the authority to visit churches, schools and other religious and charitable works carried out in his diocese by the religious belonging to various congregations. His pastoral visitation gives him an opportunity to praise, inspire and comfort those who labour for the gospel and social change. He also promotes common discipline of the whole church. 32
f) Bishop Presides over Diocesan Synod:
There are two legislators in the church. The Pope is the legislator for the universal church. The Bishops as the leaders of particular churches, have legislative powers in their respective dioceses. The Diocese of Salem got its Diocesan Synod, which consists of selected priests and other Christian faithful of the diocese. The members of the Synod offer assistance to the Diocesan Bishop for the good of the entire diocesan community according to the norms of the Canons.33
Following are to be called the Diocesan Synod as its members34 and are obliged to participate in it
1. The co-adjustor Bishop and the auxillary bishops.
2. The Vicar General, the Episcopal Vicars and the Judicial Vicar.
3. The Canons of the Cathedral Church.
4. The members of the presbyteral.
5. Lay members of the Christian faithful and members of institutes of consecrated life.
6. The Rector of Diocesan Major Seminary.
7. Vicars Forane
8. Some supervisors of the Religious Institutes.
The method of conducting the Synod is left completely in the hands of the Bishop and the synodal members. The decisions arrived at the Synod are called “acts” or “Constitutions” or “Statues”35. They are to be signed by the Bishop and can be published only with his authority36. Thus Diocesan Synod resembles Legislative body of a welfare state which enacts acts for well being of its people.
g) The Diocesan Curia:
Curia is the administrative body of the diocese. The Bishop is the head of the Curia. Canon laws 469-494 define the diocesan curia, the mode of appointment coordinator of diocesan administration and the formalities for jurisdiction documents. The Diocesan Curia consists of those institutions and persons who assist the bishop in the governance of the entire diocese. All those who participate in the over-all administration of the diocese curia are considered its members. The administrative members look after various departments such as liturgy, charity, social concerns, and temporalities and the other facts of ecclesiastical life promoted at the diocesan level. The decisions taken in the curia will come in to effect after getting the signature of the Bishop and Chancellor or the notary of Curia. 37
h) Vicar General :
The Vicar General is the most important office of the diocesan curia. His office is executive in nature. A priest is appointed by the Bishop as vicar general to assist him in the governance of the entire diocese. He possesses executive authority in all aspects of diocesan administration. He exercises it on behalf of the Bishop. The Bishop has complete discretion in removing the priest from the post of vicar general according to his judgement.
i) Chancellor :
In every Diocesan Curia, a chancellor is appointed in order to gather, arrange and safeguard Curial acts in the archives of Curia. The Chancellor also acts as principal notary of the Bishop. As the Ecclesiastical Notary he has to certify the legitimate documents. The Ecclesiastical Notary often functions as a public notary so that certain church documents may be easily certified in a manner acceptable in civil law.
j) Diocesan Administrative Tribunal:
Any person or a group of persons in the diocese who come into conflict with a parish priest or diocesan administration or administrative body other than the bishop may submit petitions to the Administrative Tribunal to resolve the disputes. The tribunal of the diocese of Salem has its sittings regularly to hear and try the cases of nullity.38 The Judicial Vicar is available in the Tribunal office, Bishop’s House, Maravanenri, Salem-7.39 The Notary is available in the Tribunal office, Bishop’s House to guide the people to write petitions and to solve their problems.40
k) Archives :
The archives seem to have been developed even during the early stage of the church history. During the first three centuries, Bishop’s preserved baptismal records called disptychs in their residences. Diocesan Archives seem to have been formally instituted by Charles Borromeo in 1565.
The diocesan archives are generally classified into (i) General archives (ii) Historical archives. These archives are attached with the Bishop’s house.
(i) General Archives : An organizational chart of the diocese and its various departments and agencies are brought under the category of General Archives. All diocesan and parochial documents are protected with the utmost care. There is an inventory or catalogue for the documents contained in the archives with a brief synopsis of the content of each one. The Bishop and Chancellor have the keys. The permission is restricted to the general archives. Permission to use the archives can be obtained either from the Bishop or both from the Moderator of Curia and the Chancellor. There are also secret archives in the Bishop’s house in which secret documents are protected most securely. The synodal acts and documents of the archives and of the cathedral and other churches in the diocese are diligently preserved in the section of secret archives.
(ii) Historical Archives: There are also historical archives in the diocese in which the documents having historical values are preserved. The records and the diaries of the missionaries preserved here are consulted for research purpose. The diocese of Salem has well maintained general and secrete historical archives. Historical archives has not yet been setup in the diocese.
l) Presbyterian Council:
The presbyter council plays a vital role in the administration of the diocese. The priests of 43 parishes of the diocese of Salem constitute one priesthood with their Bishop and strive to lend their consistent effort, support and co-operation to the pastoral work of the whole diocese. They constitute the Bishop’s senate or council such as cathedral chapter, the board of consulters or other committees established according to the circumstances or nature of various localities.
m) Diocesan Financial Council :
The canon Laws 492 to 494 deal with the structure of the financial administration. In each diocese a financial council is established by the Bishop over which he himself or his delegates preside. Its members are appointed by the Bishop. Their term of office is five years. Each year the financial council prepares a budget of income and expenditure foreseen for the governance of the entire diocese. The financial council includes the vicar general, the chancellor, and expert in canon law, three lay people who are expert in accounts and civil law and the representatives of the diocesan pastoral council and priests senate.41
The constitution of a finance council in every diocese is now obligatory. Apart from drafting the annual budget, the finance council undertakes internal audits. It includes evaluating the already audited annual statements of accounts of the diocese and all the diocesan institutions such as parishes, schools, home for children, health and social service centres etc., and submit the observation to the diocesan Bishop. This internal auditing done by the finance council promotes better economy efficiency and above all accountability. In order to look after financial administration of the diocese, a financial administrator can be appointed by the Bishop after consulting the college of consulters and the diocesan financial council. The diocesan financial council provides a model for parish financial council operating in different parishes in Salem Diocese.
n) Diocesan Pastoral Council :
It consists of Christian faithful who are in full communion with the Catholic Church, clerics and the members of institutes of consecrated life. It is meant to be representative of the whole people of God of the particular Church.42
The Pastoral Council is convened at least once a year. The members of the Parish Pastoral Council make representation to the Diocesan Pastoral Council.43 The Pastoral Council is a body of consultation designed to enlighten the Bishop, so that his decisions on the diocesan Pastoral activity may always be made in the light of opinions and points of view given by the Pastoral Council enable the Bishop to make effective plans for his pastoral works in the Diocese. It is the great concern of the pastoral council to advise the bishop in the areas of his governance especially teaching, sanctifying and general administration.44
Following are the areas in which the Diocesan Pastoral Council takes an active part.
a. Meaningful celebration of novenas, feasts etc., in the parishes.
b. Sunday catechism in the parish centres and substations.
c. Spreading the Bible and evangelization programmes.
d. Family and youth apostolate
e. Dialogue and partnership with Hindus, Muslims rationalists etc.,
f. Participation of the laity in the mission of the church.
g. Addressing national problems like fundamentalism and religious fanaticism.
h. Pastoral care to the demarginalised groups like the drug addicts, drunkards, lapsed in faith and socially displaced persons, and
i. Programmes for the widows, orphans and mentally handicapped. The church is facing many challenges in the modern times. Hence it needs healthy dialogue and proper pastoral planning to meet the present day challenges. Contributions of diocesan pastoral council in this regard cannot be underestimated.
o) Commissions and Committees:
In the exercise of his responsibilities for the diocese of Salem, the Bishop is assisted by the various commissions and committees. The most important of them are
1. Diocesan Pastoral Council
2. Priests’ Senate
3. Bible Commission
5. Education advisers
7. Lay apostolate
8. Justice and peace
13. Social Communication
14. Social Service
17. Youth and
18. S.C and S.T Commission
A priest is appointed as the director of each commission. The commission’s day-to-day work is discharged under the guidance of the directors. They meet periodically and carry out their routine programmes in consultation with the bishop. The reports on the programmes and accomplishments of these commissions and committees are published in the diocesan newsletters periodically. These commissions and committees render yeoman service under the supervision of the Bishop with regard to the spread of good news to the faithful and perform welfare activities to various social groups.
p) Parishes and Vicariates:
The Salem diocese is divided in to ecclesiastical parts known as parishes. Parish is the basic unit of the church administration. At present there are 43 parishes in Salem diocese. In order to foster pastoral care, several neighboring parishes are joined together in to special groups called vicariates. Vicariate forane is in charge of vicariate. There are five vicariates in Salem Diocese namely
1. Attur Vicariate
2. Nammakal Vicariate
3. Thiruchengode Vicariate
4. Mettur Vicariate
5. Salem Vicariate
The number of parishes belonging to each vicariate is given below
Vicariates No. Of parishes
2.Attur vicariate 8
3. Nammakal vicariate 10
4.Thiruchengodu vicariate 9
5. Mettur vicariate 6
The parish priests are appointed by the bishop to look after the parishes in the diocese. Very often a parish priest has one or more assistant younger priests to assist him in his routine duties of the parish. His pastoral duties, apart from administration of sacraments and preaching include catechizing the children, supervising the parochial school, taking up the censes of the parish etc.,45
q) Parish Fund:
Each family in the parish has to contribute annually some amount of money known as ‘Talai Kattuvari’ towards the maintenance of the Diocese. In the case of a widow less amount of money is collected from her. Collection of money is also made in connection with special occasions such as Parish Church Feast, Good Friday, Sunday, one Sunday of lent and collection for hunger and disease .The amount collected by the respective parishes should be sent to the procurator by the end of April every year.
r) Religious order:
The priests are trained in the seminaries. The Bishop can entrust a parish to a clerical religious institute or to a clerical society of apostolic life with the consent of the superior for instance, the Udayapatti Parish is entrusted to M.S.F congregation. The M.S.F Fathers carry out the pastoral work in Udayapatti parish under the guidance of the Bishop of Salem Diocese.46 The majority of the Bishops, pastors, and assisted come from the ranks of secular clergy. They are called so because they live in the ‘world’ rather than in monasteries. The secular clergy are assisted by the men and women of various religious orders to perform specialized works of education charity and spiritual activities in the diocese. Thus in addition to zealous work of the diocesan priests, the religious priests also share the responsibility of apostolic work and various services under the guidance of the bishop.
s) Catholic Bishop Conference of India:
The catholic Bishop conference of India plays an important role in the development of Dioceses. It was constituted in Madras in 1944. Every Catholic Bishop is a member of the conference. The C.B.C.I acts through a standing committee, which is its executive, and a smaller working committee dealing with day to day administration.
The C.B.C.I has brought about a sense of close unity among the heads of the numerous dioceses and has enabled them to adopt common policies in their administration . Michael Duraisamy [1974 –1999] former bishop of Salem was the chairman of the C.B.C.I Commission for Ecumenism and Dialogue, Communication and Evangelization.
Thus the Diocese is the union of members of the church and hierarchical authority as a means to serve the men and women of the Diocese of Salem. The Diocese of Salem functions under a well-organized administrative system. Though the Bishop enjoys all the powers, he exercises them through the different officials like the Vicar General, Judicial Vicar, Priests’ Senate and Episcopal Vicar. They are his collaborators in the administration of the diocese. Vatican Council II states, “Priests and laymen who are attached to the diocesan administration should be mindful that they are collaborating in the pastoral work of the bishop.” In the church organisation, the parish forms the basic administrative unit and the faithful are the main collaborators in carrying out the pastoral work of the bishop and the mission of the Diocese.