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Diocese of Raigarh


HISTORY

Before Independence, the entire area was divided in five feudatory states. Up to 1905 no Catholic priest was allowed to enter these feudatory states. The local people, mostly the tribals were suffering under exploitation, oppression, superstition, illiteracy and poverty. Hence, in Christianity they saw a liberating force and around 1989 - 90 there was a strong movement towards Christianity among the Oraon tribe of Jashpur and Surguja feudatory states. Tribal Oraons of both Jashpur and Surguja feudatory states used to walk about 200 kms. to Ranchi to meet the Belgian Jesuit Fathers. The feudal rulers were unable to crush the movements and thousands of tribals were baptized. Since the Catholic priests were not allowed to even to build a shed to live in, the first resident priest lived from 1912 to 1915 in a tent near Ginabahar under a banyan tree. In 1915 he was allowed to build a small hut and in 1917 he got permission to build a presbytery. In the course of time four other mission stations were started but, all the while, missionary activities were severely restricted and monitored by the feudal rulers.

In 1933 a considerable number of the tribals of the neighboring feudal state of Udaipur resolved to embrace Christianity. The feudal ruler of Udaipur vehemently opposed the movement. Till 1941 no Catholic priest was allowed to enter the Udaipur state except when summoned to the sick bed and only four times a year during other time to celebrate Holy Mass. But, he was always under police surveillance and never allowed to stay more than 48 hours.

After independence, in 1948 the feudal rulers were abdicated and their states were merged into India. Indian constitution guaranteed freedom of religion to all. But, the newly formed state government of Madhya Pradesh tried to impose the anti-Christian laws and set up Niyogi Commission. In the midst of oppositions and persecutions, missionary activities continued to progress and number of Catholics continued to increase both in the former feudatory states of Jashpur and Surguja under Belgian Jesuit Frs. Hence, on December 13, 1951 a new Diocese of Raigarh - Ambikapur was erected by dismemberment from Ranchi and Nagpur dioceses. In 1971 Ambikapur became a separate diocese to which the entire district of Surguja was entrusted. And the old diocese became only the Diocese of Raigarh, which is situated, in the eastern part of Chhattisgarh. The territory of the present Diocese of Raigarh comprises the civil districts of Raigarh and Jashpur in the newly formed state of Chhattisgarh.





Most Rev. Paul Toppo

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History
Area 7,086 sq. kms.
Total Population 1,493,627
Catholics 33,194
Languages Kharia, Oraon, English, Hindi, Sadri and Chhattisgarhi.