Poona, Diocese of (PUNENSIS), in India, comprises that portion of the Bombay Presidency which lies on the Deccan plateau as far north as the Tapti River, that is to say the collectorates of Poona, Ahmednagar, Nasik, Kandeish, Sholapur, Bijapur, Satara, Dharwar, a portion of Belgaum, and the Native States of Kolhapur, Miraj, Sangli, and others of less note, but excluding Savantwadi, a portion of the collectorate of Belgaum and the whole of North Canara, which belong to the Archdiocese of Goa. It is bounded on the east by the Dioceses of Nagpur, Hyderabad, and Madras; on the north it touches the Prefecture Apostolic of Rajputana; on the west the line of the Western ghauts divides it from the Diocese of Damaun and the Archdiocese of Goa; and on the south it is contiguous to the Diocese of Mysore. It includes one detached portion of territory at Barsi Town surrounded by the Diocese of Hyderabad, while at Poona there is one exempted church belonging to the Archdiocese of Goa. The Catholic population is numbered at 15,487 under the jurisdiction of the bishop, omitting those who are attached to the “padroado” church at Poona. There are twenty-two churches and twenty chapels served by twenty-one Fathers of the German province of the Society of Jesus and twelve secular priests assisted by the Nuns of Jesus and Mary and the Daughters of the Cross. Besides military stations (Poona, Kirkee, Ahmednagar, Deolali) and churches for railway people (Lanowli, Igatpuri, Bhusaval, Sholapur, Hubli, Dharwar) there are three mission fields: the Ahmednagar group founded in 1878 with a total of 5880 Christians; the Gadag group founded in 1868 with 300 recent converts besides other Christians of old standing; the newly established mission at Kuna near Khandalla. The bishop’s residence and cathedral are at Poona. There is no diocesan seminary, candidates for the priesthood being sent to the papal seminary at Kandy, Ceylon.
From 1637 to 1854 the districts comprised in the diocese formed part of the Vicariate Apostolic of the Great Mogul, which in 1720 became the Vicariate Apostolic of Bombay. But except for occasional attendance on the followers of the Sultan’s Court at Bijapur, no missionary work seems to have been attempted in these parts—the only Christian stations known to exist in the eighteenth century being those of Tumaricop in the south (ministered to by Carmelite tertiaries from Goa); Poona (where a chaplain from Goa was paid by the peshwa), and it is said Bagalhot, once visited by the Jesuits of Pondicherry(?). There was also a Goan chapel at Satara in the early part of the nineteenth century, and perhaps one or two besides, but none of them worked by the Vicar Apostolic of Bombay. The gradual growth of stations for British troops in the first half of the nineteenth century, and the laying of railways later chiefly caused the growth of stations within this district. When in 1854 the Carmelites resigned the Vicariate of Bombay, the mission was divided into two halves (Bombay and Poona), and the Poona portion was taken over by the German Jesuits. In 1858 the Capuchins, who had received the Bombay portion, also resigned, and thus the whole of the Bombay-Poona district was taken over by the Jesuits and reunited into one mission. Although the two vicariates remained nominally distinct, no Vicar Apostolic of Poona was ever appointed, the administration being in the hands of the Vicar Apostolic of Bombay. In 1886, when the hierarchy was established, Poona became a diocese, suffragan to Bombay. The boundaries between the two vicariates were then readjusted, and afterwards those of Poona were curtailed by the transfer of part of the Belgaum collectorate to Goa, since when the arrangement has been stable.
For administrators from 1854 to 1886, see Archdiocese of Bombay. The first bishop was Bernard Beider-Linden, S.J., 1886-1907; the present bishop, Henry Doering, S.J., from 1907. Among its educational institutions are: St. Vincent’s High School, Poona (matriculation, Bombay), with 296 day-scholars; St. Joseph‘s convent school, Poona, under eleven nuns of Jesus and Mary, with 192 pupils, also European orphanage and St. Anne’s school with 16 boarders and 36 day-scholars; convent school at Igatpuri with 76 pupils and a poor school with 47 children; also a convent school at Panchgani with 40 pupils, both under the Daughters of the Cross; English-speaking schools at Bhusaval, Igatpuri, Lanowli, Sholapur, Ahmednagar, Dharwar, and Hubli, with a total of 483 pupils. In the Ahmednagar mission districts 80 village schools attended by 2400 children; in the Gadag mission districts 5 elementary schools with 110 children.
ERNEST R. HULL