Dacca, Diocese of (DACCHENSIS), in Bengal, India. By the Constitution “Aequam reputamus “Paul III established in 1534 the See of Goa, conferring upon it spiritual jurisdiction over all the Portuguese ossessions from the Cape of Good Hope to China. Early in the sixteenth century the Portuguese found their way into Eastern Bengal, and the Eurasian and native Christian communities that grew up around the several settlements were, in virtue of the aforesaid Constitution, subject to the ecclesiastical authority of Goa, and later (1606) to the See of Mylapore, suffragan to Goa. When the political power of Portugal was replaced by British rule in India, the Bishop of Mylapore still retained jurisdiction over the Church in Bengal, and seven thousand out of the twenty-two thousand Catholics within the territory of the Diocese of Dacca are still subject to him. In the interest of more effective missionary work, Propaganda, April 18, 1834, appointed Robert of St. Ledger, a priest of the Society of Jesus, Vicar Apostolic of Calcutta and the territory under its political jurisdiction, which at the time included the entire province of Bengal. In 1850, at the instance of Archbishop Carew, Vicar Apostolic of Bengal, Pius IX divided the province into two vicariates Apostolic, one of Eastern, the other of Western Bengal. A subsequent subdivision (1870) resulted in the establishment of a third allotment, the Vicariate of Central Bengal. The territory of the third vicar Apostolic was taken in part from the Eastern and in part from the Western vicariates.
On the creation of the hierarchy in India, September, 1886, the Eastern vicariate became the Diocese of Dacca, the district of Arakan (Burma) being substituted for that of Assam, which in 1889 became a prefecture Apostolic. With Dacca City as center, the diocese is bounded on the north by the Prefecture Apostolic of Assam, on the east by the Vicariates of Northern and Southern Burma, on the south by the Bay of Bengal, and on the west by the Bay of Bengal and the Diocese of Krishnagar. According to the latest Government survey the area thus enclosed measured fifty-nine thousand square miles, the population in the census of 1902 registered slightly above seventeen millions. The first occupant of the new see was Augustine Louage, a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, who on his death in 1894 was succeeded by Bishop Hurth. Except for an interim of twelve years (1876-1888) when the mission was in care of members of the Benedictine Order, religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross have labored in Eastern Bengal since 1853. Since 1888 the Institute of the Holy Cross has had from Rome exclusive charge of the mission. The nine “centers” into which the Diocese of Dacca is divided give opportunity to the twenty missionaries at work in it to carry on an active propaganda in outlying districts. In each center there is a school, and in many of the dependent stations there is a catechumenate under the immediate super-vision of local catechists and the elders of the respective communities. In Dacca, Chittagong, and Akyab the mission conducts schools in which students, irrespective of religious profession, are prepared for “en-trance” or collegiate work. The academy for girls in each of these cities is directed by a staff of 35 nuns, Daughters of Our Lady of the Missions (23), and the Sisters Catechists (12). The diocesan school attendance for 1907 numbered 1768 pupils.
The Church in the Diocese of Dacca experiences all the obstacles common to foreign missionary work the world over. Dacca City is three-fifths Mohammedan, and among the Hindus of Eastern Bengal the traditional caste will oppose, for some time at least, an effective barrier to the rapid spread of the Catholic Faith. As Dacca, however, is the college town of India, the percentage of students being relatively greater here than in any other city of the empire, Catholicism has continually brightening prospects opening before it, in and around the capital of Bengal-Assam. The influential Somaj of Dacca is one of the many presentday manifestations of the increasingly accurate appreciation of the part or function of reason in life. The widespread awakening of a critical rationalistic spirit, which has already questioned the feasibility of many caste observances, will eventually work harm to the claims of Hinduism itself. All this augurs well for the cause of truth.
P. J. HURTH