The old diocese of Mylapore was erected by Pope Paul V on Jan. 9, 1606. The Vicariate Apostolic of Madras was created on July 4, 1832, and confirmed on April 25, 1834. This Vicariate Apostolic was raised to an Archepiscopal See on Sept. 1, 1886. The Diocese of Mylapore from the very beginning was under the Portuguese Padroado and in 1950 passed over to the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
By the Apostolic Constitution Ex- Primaevae Ecclesiae of Jan. 13, 1952, a portion of the Archdiocese of Madras and Diocese of Mylapore were dismembered. From the western portion of the Archdiocese of Madras, the Diocese of Vellore was created. The extreme southern portion of the Diocese of Mylapore was made the Diocese of Thanjavur. From the remaining portions, a new archdiocese was created on Nov. 14, 1952, to be known as the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore.
The archdiocesan territory covers a land area of 3,160 square kilometers and includes the city of Chennai (formerly called Madras) and the civil district of Thiruvallur. The area has a population of 7,098,401, according to the government census in 2001.
The per capita income in the archdiocesan territory is 27,050 rupees (US$611) per annum. The territory has petrochemical, automobile, dairy, fishing, garment manufacturing, agriculture, hotel and information technology industries. Chennai city has a major port facility.
Ethnic groups in the territory include Anglo-Indians, Gujarathis, Malayalees, Marwaris, Tamils and Telugus. Most of the people speak Tamil but there is a considerable number of people who speak English, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi. The local literacy rate is 81.14 percent.
The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (now called the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) promulgated the Papal Bull, Ex Primaevae Ecclesiae, on Nov. 13, 1952 during the reign of Pope Pius XII, which amalgamated the Archdiocese of Madras and the Diocese of Mylapore and established the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. The dioceses of Chingleput, Coimbatore, Ootacamund and Vellore are its suffragans as of today.
The old Diocese of Mylapore was erected by Pope Paul V on Jan. 9, 1606, by an agreement between the Holy Father and the King of Portugal. By virtue of this arrangement which was known as "Padroado," the King of Portugal was vested with special powers to appoint bishops and priests in specified areas and to support them financially in their work of evangelization. The padroado system and the arrangement suffered due to the civil disturbance and transfer of power in Portugal and was finally cancelled by the Holy Father in the year 1950.
The Diocese of Mylapore then came under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith from Oct. 10, 1950. The last padroado Bishop of Mylapore, His Excellency Dom MM Guerreiro was transferred on March 2, 1951, to the See of Nampula in Mozambique in Portuguese East Africa. On Bishop Guerreiro's transfer, his Vicar General, Monsignor Francis Arthur Carvalho was appointed, by the congregation, as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Mylapore, a post which he held until the creation of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore.
At 10 a.m. on Nov. 27, 1952, the Apostolic Administrator of Mylapore received an official communication from the Apostolic Nuncio of India that Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith had by a decree dated Nov. 13, 1952, dismembered the Diocese of Mylapore and the Archdiocese of Madras and constituted three distinct ecclesiastical units as follows: From the dismembered parts of the Archdiocese of Madras, in the territory of the Civil Districts of North Arcot and Chittoor a new Diocese of Vellore was created. From the dismembered parts of the Diocese of Mylapore, in the former territory, a new Diocese of Thanjavur was created. From the remaining parts of the Archdiocese of Madras and the Diocese of Mylapore, in the city of Madras and district of Chingleput, a new ecclesiastical unit called Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore was formed. It was also decreed that the Church of St. Thomas, hitherto the Cathedral of the Bishop of Mylapore, is to become the Cathedral of the new Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, with St Mary's Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Madras as co-cathedral of the new archdiocese. For the time being, His Grace the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore would be the Administrator Apostolic of the two dioceses of Vellore and Thanjavur. The Cathedral of Mylapore is to become the Cathedral of the new Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, with St. Mary's Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Madras as co-cathedral of the new archdiocese. For the time being, His Grace the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore would be the Apostolic Administrator of the two dioceses of Vellore and Thanjavur.
The Papal Bull, Ex Primaevae Ecclesiae, further decreed that "the Diocese of Vellore be entrusted to the Salesian Congregation of Don Bosco, the Diocese of Thanjavur to be entrusted to the Diocesan Clergy, and the Priests working in the various Dioceses, on the day this Bull was issued will remain incardinated to that Diocese." The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore which already had nine suffragans at that period was given two more suffragans -- Vellore and Thanjavur. The archdiocese therefore had a total of 11 suffragans till Sept. 9, 1953, when, with the re-organization of the ecclesiastical provinces in India, the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore was given two suffragans only -- Coimbatore and Vellore.
In November 1969, by a Decree from Rome, on the request of the respective ordinaries, some parishes from the Archdiocese of Pondicherry was brought under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore. They were: Manambathy Kandigai, Sancta Maria Mission -- Palliagaram, Thatchoor, Madurantagam, Acharapakkam, Malligapuram and Cheyyur. One more parish named Alphonsapuram belonging to the Diocese of Vellore was also annexed to the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore by the same Decree.
As regards the Archdiocese of Madras, the Vicariate Apostolic of Madras was created on July 14, 1832, but the first Apostolic Vicar declined the appointment, due to which the Holy See nominated Rt. Rev Dom Pedro de Alcantara O.C.D., the Vicar of Bombay, as the Interim of Madras by Brief: Pastorale Officium on March 5, 1833. On April 21, 1834 by Brief: Ex debito Pastorali, the Holy See nominated Rt. Rev Daniel O'Connor O.S. Aug. as Vicar Apostolic, and on his arrival in Madras in August 1835, Rt. Rev Dom Pedrao de Alcantara returned to Bombay. This Apostolic Vicariate was raised to an Archiepiscopal See on Sept. 1, 1886, during the reign of Pope Leo XIII and from this year onwards the Archdiocese of Madras functioned under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
The Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore functions in the capital city of Chennai (Madras) in the State of Tamil Nadu. On Nov. 14, 1952, Most Rev Louis Mathias SDB was nominated as the first Archbishop of Madras- Mylapore. His Grace was solemnly enthroned on Nov. 29 of the same year in the Santhome Cathedral Basilica which was officially made as Cathedral of the new Archdiocese, while St Mary's Cathedral was made Co-Cathedral. This Salesian administered the Archdiocese till his death, in 1965, followed by Archbishop R. Arulappa who retired in 1987. Archbishop Casimir Gnanadickam, SJ was installed in 1987. After his sudden death in 1993, Archbishop Arul Das James was installed in 1994. After his death in 2004, the Auxiliary Bishop, Lawrence Pius was Administrator till May 22, 2005, when the present archbishop, Most Rev. A. M. Chinnappa SDB took charge of the archdiocese.
According to tradition, St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, walked on the sands of Mylapore and preached the Gospel to the people who embraced Christianity. This apostle was martyred on St. Thomas Mount, near Mylapore in the year 72 AD and his mortal remains were buried in Santhome in the Church which was built by him. Through the centuries this church had undergone many changes. Finally a majestic Gothic structured cathedral was built and consecrated on April 1, 1896, by the Missionary Portuguese Bishop of Mylapore, His Excellency Dom Henry Joseph Reed da Silva. This monument had undergone many renovations since then and was again restored in 2004 by Fr P. J Lawrence Raj when a separate underground chapel was built over the tomb of St Thomas. This chapel was blessed and consecrated by the then Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, Arul Das James, on July 3, 2004.
The Chingleput diocese was bifurcated from the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore by His Holiness John Paul II on July 19, 2002, appointing Rt. Rev Antony Swamy Neethinathan as its first bishop.
On Nov. 26, 2000, His Grace the Most Rev. Arul Das James solemnly inaugurated the preparations for the Second Synod of the Archdiocese at the Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni, Besant Nagar, Chennai. After 29 months of intensive consultation and meetings, the historical Second Synod took place from March 26-30, 2003, at Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee with 407 participants having the main theme, "Towards the Fullness of Life." It is to be noted that the First Synod of the Archdiocese of Madras- Mylapore was held in the Cathedral of St. Thomas, the Apostle, in Santhome, from Nov. 24-26, 1953, presided over by His Grace the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, Louis Mathias, SDB.
The archdiocese now functions, under the able leadership of Archbishop Malayappan Chinnappa, SDB., and Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Pius Dorairaj with 101 parishes situated in the City of Chennai and the District of Thiruvallur; covering an area of 3,160 square kilometers.