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Diocese of Raiganj

Diocese of Raiganj
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In a land area of 8,920 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers three civil districts of North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda in West Bengal state. Major cities in the diocese are Malda, Raiganj, Islampur, and Balurghat. Important rivers are: Mahananda, Nagar, Kulik, Atari, Kalindi.

Raiganj is located on the banks of Kulik River. It is the headquarters of North Dinajpur district. Raiganj is an important center for agriculture trade and jute exports. Rice mills are also operational in the territory.

Population

In Raiganj diocese, the population was 8,669,750 in 2017.. Most residents are Bengali Dalits (former untouchables). Catholics are mostly tribals belonging to the communities of Santal, Oraon and Munda.

Language

The languages used in the diocesan territory are Hindi, Bengali, tribal dialects of Santhali, Sadri, Oraon, Mundari.

History

The diocese of Raiganj was erected on June 8, 1978.

Prior to World War I a lot of missionary activities were taking place among the Santal tribals. Many Santals were migrating from their native Santal Parganas and Krishnagar areas to various parts of Dinajpur district, now in Bangladesh.

Jesuit Father L. Knockaert, S.J., who was based in Purenea of Bihar state, was a pioneer missioner among the Santals. He frequented the Santal settlements near to Kishangunj and built a chapel in Majlispur in 1925.

In the same year, the first contingent of the Sicilan Jesuit province arrived in India. The Maltese Jesuit Father A. Debono and the two scholastics were appointed at Majlispur. The missionaries worked hard to free the Santals from the clutches of the moneylenders and ensure social freedom. By 1929-30 they built here the presbytery, convent and hostels for the children.

In 1930 the Sisters of Charity of Saints Bartholomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa (SCCG) arrived to work in the mission. This was the first mission in this area. Whereas the Jesuit Fathers labored in the northern part of the present diocese, the Italian Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missionaries of Milan (PIME) pioneered in the southern part of the diocese.

PIME Father Delforno built the first mission center in 1911 at Lukripir village. In 1935 that mission was shifted to Alampur.

In 1952 prefecture of Malda was formed out of Malda and a part of West Dinajpur, now in the neighboring Bangladesh, and was entrusted to Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missionaries of Milan (PIME).

When the diocese of Dumka was formed in 1962, the area of the prefecture of Malda was added to Dumka diocese.

In 1978 the districts of Malda and the erstwhile West Dinajpur, (now divided into two districts of Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur), were bifurcated from Dumka and diocese of Raiganj was formed.

Jesuit Bishop Leo Tigga, who was the bishop of Dumka, was transferred to Raiganj as the first bishop. After the death of Bishop Tigga on Jan. 29, 1986, Jesuit Bishop Alphonsus D'Souza was appointed its second bishop on Jan. 26, 1987.

Most priests are tribals. Missioners from the southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala states also work among the people.

Economy

people cultivate: paddy, jute, mustard, wheat and vegetables. Many rice mills are active in this area. Industrial presence is almost negligible in North Dinajpur district. A few industries are found in South Dinajpur district.

Education

People are generally poor and uneducated.

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