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Archdiocese of Agra

Situated in British India

Agra, the Archdiocese of, is situated in British India and lies between 25° 30′ and 32° N. lat., and 75° and 81° E. long. The area in square miles is 91,843. The population, according to the last census, is 28,086,364. The predominant religion of India when missions were first introduced was Mohammedanism. The primitive religion is Hinduism. The bulk of the population then, as now, belonged to this sect. The Archdiocese of Agra is an outcome of the Tibet Mission, which was the first regularly established in this part of India. Pellegrino da Forli in his “Annali dei Cappuccini”, IV, 115, states: “Since 1703 the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith has assigned to the Capuchins of the Marca d’Ancona the Mission of Tibet”. The first decree of the Sacred Congregation which refers to the Tibetan Mission is dated January 11, 1704. By this instrument Father Felix, a Montecchio of the Capuchin Order, is appointed Missionary Apostolic for ten years under the Prefect John Francis a Camerino (Bull. Ordin. F. Min. Cap. S. Francisci, t. VII, 250). From 1704 to 1808 thirty bands of missionaries, varying in number from two or three to eleven or twelve, were sent out. Owing to the unsettled condition of Europe, none were sent, from 1808 to 1823, to reinforce these. Ludovic Micara, a Capuchin of Frascati, was consecrated Bishop on April 13, 1820, and appointed Vicar-Apostolic of the Tibet-Hindustan Mission. But circumstances prevented his leaving Europe, where he died, Cardinal Bishop of Frascati. The Right Rev. Zenobius Benucci, O. C., Bishop of Herma, was appointed Vicar-Apostolic of Agra, and died at Agra, June 23, 1824. From then up to 1886 there was a regular succession of vicars-apostolic of Agra. Pope Leo XIII, by the Bull “Humanae Salutis Auctor”, September 1, 1886, constituted and erected the Catholic hierarchy of India, and converted the vicariate apostolic of Agra into a metropolitan see. The Mission of Tibet had been productive of good results, and after two centuries (1703-1906) it has expanded into a metropolitan province. The suffragans of the Archbishop of Agra are the Bishops of Allahabad and Lahore and the Prefects Apostolic of Rajputana, Bettiah and Nepal, Kafristan and Kashmer. The Metropolitan, with his suffragans, rules over a country comprised in the following political divisions of India: The United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, the Central India Agency, the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, and portions of Bengal and the Central Provinces.

The Begum Sumroo, who ruled over Sardhana as a vassal of Delhi, was a convert from Mohammedanism. With this princess the fathers of the Tibetan Mission found a home. She obtained from the Holy See the promotion of Father Giulio Cesare, one of the members of the Mission, to the episcopal dignity. His Holiness Pope Gregory XVI wrote to her, and sent her tokens of his paternal approbation. This gifted and great woman caused Catholicism to be respected even amidst the decay of the great Mogul empire. She bequeathed to her posterity not only an example of regal munificence in her many charitable endowments, but also a holy heritage in the colony of Christians that survive to this day in her beloved Sardhana. The following list of Bishops of Tibet-Hindustan, with their dates of consecration, is culled from the compilation made by Father Felix of the Diocese of Lahore (Oath. Calendar and Directory of the Archdiocese): Rt. Rev. Ludovic Micara, O.C., consecrated April 13, 1820; Rt. Rev. Zenobius Benucci, O.C., 1823; Anthony Pezzoni, O.C., 1826; Dr. Joseph Angelus Planella, O.C., consecrated Bishop of Toposo with right of succession of the Vicar-Apostolic of Agra; Joseph Anthony Borghi, O.C., consecrated 1839; Cajetan Carli, O.C., 1844; Ignatius Persico, O.C., 1854; Angelicus Bedenik, O.C., 1861; Michael Angelus Jacobi, 1868.

Bishop Jacobi was created first Archbishop of Agra September 1, 1886, and died at Mussoorie October 14, 1891. The Most Rev. Dr. Emmanuel Van Den Bosch was consecrated Bishop of Lahore in 1891 and transferred to the Archbishopric of Agra in 1892. He resigned in 1898. The Most Rev. Dr. Charles Gentili, O.C., was consecrated Bishop of Allahabad June 29, 1897, and appointed Archbishop of Agra August 27, 1898.

The Archdiocese of Agra has a Catholic population of 9,442; regular priests, 38; secular priests, 16; sisters, 228; brothers, 11; parochial schools for boys, 11; for girls, 5; colleges for boys, 2; for girls, 1; convents, 6; orphanages for boys, 3; inmates 403; orphanages for girls, 5; inmates 459; preparatory seminary for native priests, 1.

S. O’BRIEN.


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