Welcome to the Archdiocese of Madurai
Msgr. John Piere Leonard S.J., succeeded in 1935 Msgr. Augustine Fisandier S.J., as Bishop of Trichy. He worked out the bifurcation of the diocese and effected the creation of Madurai diocese in 1938. That was the year of completion of the New Madurai Jesuit Mission. By the Papal Bull, “Si inter fidelis”, dated 8th January 1938, the diocese of Madurai was created by the Holy See. Bishop Leonard became the first bishop. The new diocese had only 26 diocesan priests, 53 parishes, 303 religious sisters and the Catholic population of 1,60,000. For quite some time the Society of Jesus lent its priests for pastoral ministry.
On 19th November 1953, Madurai was elevated to the status of Archdiocese, with Trichy and Tuticorin as its suffragan dioceses. Ten years later, Kottar also became the suffragan diocese to Madurai. The first Archbishop, Most Rev. Leonard is known for his “ardent missionary zeal, evangelical simplicity, spirit of poverty and untiring activity”. He served the diocese for 29 long years from 1938 to 1967 exhibiting the virtue of “courage as a lion and the meekness of the lamb.”
Again the diocese of Trichy rendered a benevolent and gentle bishop, Most Rev. Justin Diraviam to Madurai who succeeded Bishop Leonard, the foreign Missionary. Most Rev. Justin Diraviam was a great Prelate who was a doctor of Canon Law. He built up the diocese enormously. With his gigantic administrative skills, he built everywhere churches and schools and brought as many as religious congregations in his diocese to do pastoral ministries. He served the diocese for 18 long years, from 1967 to 1985 and retired at the age of 78. Above all, his greatest achievement was the creation of Palayamkottai diocese in 1973. The taluks of Sankarankoil, Tenkasi, Ambasamudram, Trinelveli, and Kovilpatti comprising of 23 parishes with the Catholic population of 70,773 were carved out into a new diocese called Palayamkottai on 9th September 1973.
The third Prelate was Most Rev. Casimir Gnanadickam S.J., who was a scientist and an erudite scholar. He took canonical possession of the Archdiocese on 16th June 1985. Madurai enjoyed only for a short time the pastoral shepherding of Archbishop
Casimir, who was transferred to the Archdiocese of Madras – Mylapore on 25th March 1987. It was during his reign the civil districts of Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram were formed to carve into a new diocese called Sivaganga. Sivaganga was born on 25th July 1987. Archbishop Justin Diraviam who pioneered the creation of Sivaganga, saw it being materialized during his retirement. Full of merits and age, Archbishop Diraviam passed away on 25th January 1991.
On 28th August 1987, Marianus Arockiasamy entered the city of Tamil Sangams, to serve the Archdiocese ‘in faith and love’. He was then 60 years old with the righ experience of 17 years of a Bishop in Kottar. Archbishop Arockiasamy is an epitome of all the pioneering ministries in the Archdiocese of Madurai. Jettisoning the dichotomy between faith and justice, he intensified new initiatives in education, health, development, interfaith dialogue and upliftment of dalit Christians in Tamilnadu. He offered a commendable leadership not only to the ecclesiastical world but also to the Tamil Society in Tamilnadu. Due to his illness, an Auxiliary was appointed on 1999. On 4th February 1999, the feast day of Patron Saint of Madurai, St. John De Britto, Most Rev. P. Antony was appointed and consecrated as the Auxiliary Bishop of Madurai.
When Archbishop Arockiasamy retired, the Holy Father appointed Most Rev. Peter Fernando D.D., Ph. D., as the Archbishop of Madurai on 24th April 2003. Under his cordial pastoral shepherding of the See, the Archdiocese continues its ecclesiastical journey in the turbulent waters of consumerism and individualism in the world. Archbishop Peter Fernando materialized the dream of his predecessor by carving out a new diocese of Dindigul from Madurai. Madurai gave birth to Dindigul in 2003 and Most Rev. Antony P., the Auxiliary of Madruai became the bishop of Dindigul.
Known for his compassionate heart and cordial inter personal relationship, Most Rev. Peter Fernando is leading the archdiocese in the love of Christ and in the communion of faith.