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Diocese of Rajshahi
Diocese of Rajshahi

Population

The total population of 2017 was 19,072,080. In addition to the wide use of Bangla, different tribal languages such as Santali, Oraon (Kuruk and Sadri), Mahali and Paharia are also spoken by indigenous people in the diocesan territory.

History

On May 21, 1990, the Diocese of Rajshahi was canonically erected, incorporating within its territory, the southern portion of the greater Diocese of Dinajpur. The history of Rajshahi Diocese before its creation, is now part of the history of Dinajpur Diocese.

The work of evangelisation began there at the request of Mr. Gabriel Topno, a Munda tribal, a Christian and a leper, who migrated from Chota Nagpur in the Indian village of of Begunbari, two miles south of the present Beneedwar Parish. It was Fr. Francesco Rocca, a missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan (PIME), who came from Pakuria in Meherpur District, to the south of the mighty Ganges on January 29, 1902, to provide pastoral assistance to Mr. Topno and his family. He subsequently continued preaching the Gospel in the area.

Within eight years of his arrival, there were already large Christian communities among the Mundas in Begunbari, Mahalis in Chokjodu and Santals in Beneedwar. Crossing the River Ganges, the Mal-Paharias came to build the Iswardi-Amnura Railway Tracks. The Christian missionaries also crossed the river and walked along the railway tracks, preaching the Good News of Christ. The first Mal-Paharias of Andharkota were baptized on February 21, 1904, by Fr. S. Taveggia, PIME.

Thereupon, from the tiny beginnings in Begunbari and Andharkota, Catholic faith gradually spread among the Adibasis throughout the Diocese of Rajshahi. In the year 1925, many Bengali Christians from Bhawal areas of the Archdiocese of Dhaka started migrating to the greater districts of Pabna and Rajshahi in search of land and their economic amelioration.

Three parishes were gradually established for their pastoral care, in Bonpara (1940), Mothurapur (1947) and Mariabad/Borni (1949). Mothurapur belonged to the Archdiocese of Dhaka until 1976, when it was transferred to the Diocese of Dinajpur. With the growth and extension of the Church in northern Bengal, there arose a need to create a new diocese which comprised of the eight southern districts of the Diocese of Dinajpur, to further the work of evangelisation.

Bishop Theotonius Gomes C.S.C., the then Bishop of Dinajpur, initiated the process of erection of the Diocese of Rajshahi. It was announced on May 21, 1990, and the Bishop Patrick D'Rozario C.S.C. was appointed the first Bishop of the new Diocese. After five years of strenuous pastoral and organisational works of the new diocese, Msgr. D'Rozario was transferred to the seaport Diocese of Chittagong, and he became its second native Bishop on February 3, 1995. Father Julian Rozario guided the diocese as the administrator of the Sede Vacante of Rajshahi Diocese until Father Paulinus Costa, the then vicar general of Dhaka, was named, consecrated and took possession of the diocese on April 26, 1996.

Political

There is no separate political structure in the diocesan territory. There are some seats in the Parliament for Rajshahi, and the citizens elect their representatives to those seats. No serious disruption of democracy is seen in the region. Minorities can vote and take part in politics without any pressure. The people of Rajshahi city have the opportunity to elect their mayor for the Rajshahi City Corporation.

Transportation

Rajshahi is connected to all parts of the country by land, and to some extent by air. Buses, trains and private vehicles are the main modes of transport there. Rajshahi city can be reached by domestic airplanes. Roads and highways connect the city to towns and to rural areas of the diocese.

Geography

The territory is located between 88.15 and 89.80 degrees longitude (East) and between 23.75 and 25.25 latitude (North).

The diocese covers a total land area of 18,063 sq. km. It comprises of the nine civil districts of Rajshahi, Natore, Pabna, Sirajganj, Bogra, Chapai Nawabganj, Naogaon and Joypurhat (excluding the police station of Panchbibi). Padma, which is known as the Gonga or Ganges in West Bengal, enters into the country through the diocesan territory.

Economy

The per capita income of the diocesan territory is equivalent to 463 USD. The main agricultural products of the area are rice and mango. The varieties of mangoes produced in the Rajshahi territory are famous for their unique taste.

Telecommunication

There are many cell phone service providers, in addition to government and private land phone service providers. Cell phones are popularly in use.

Education

The overall literacy rate of the diocesan territory is 47% (as per 2001 Census).

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