Eparchy of Bhadravathi
The history of the Eparchy of Bhadravathi could be traced back to the migration of a group of Catholics from Kerala after the World War II in search of land and occupation. They found many places in Shimoga district, and Narasimharajapura and surrounding places in Chikmagalur district in Karnataka state very conducive to their agricultural practices and slowly settled down in small groups in different parts of the area. These migrant and agrarian families were under the pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar Archeparchy of Tellicherry, Kerala and when the Eparchy of Mananthavady was created on 1 March 1973 they came under the jurisdiction of the new eparchy. Due to the geographical distance from the eparchial center and the cultural and linguistic differences, it was not easy for the eparchial authorities to take care of the pastoral needs of the migrants properly. Hence, Mar Jacob Thoomkuzhy, the first bishop of Mananthavady has entrusted different districts in Karnataka that come under his jurisdiction to various religious congregations for pastoral care of the migrants and for works of evangelization. Thus, “Shimoga Mission” comprising the civil district of Shimoga was entrusted to the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (MCBS) on 24 June 1978 for the pastoral care and missionary activity. The “Narasimharajapura Mission”, popularly known as “NR Pura” comprising the civil district of Chikmagalur was directly under the pastoral care of the eparchy of Mananthavady until 25 May 1995 then it was entrusted to the Norbertine Fathers at Mananthavady, who had already started working there since 1994, for pastoral care and developmental activities. The committed service and missionary activity of MCBS Fathers in Shimoga for 30 years along with the Religious Sisters of different Congregations, and the selfless service and developmental works of Norbertine Fathers in NR Pura, and the works of the Carmelite Fathers and the priests of the Archeparchy of Tellicherry and Eparchy of Mananthavady who had previously served there prepared the background for the creation of the diocese of Bhadravathi.
The eparchy of Bhadravathi was erected, as per the decision of the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church with the assent of the Holy See, through the decree (Prot. No. 673/2007) of the Major Archbishop Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil on 21 August 2007 bifurcating the eparchy of Mananthavady and assigning the civil district of Shimoga in Karnataka State as the territory of the new eparchy and Mar Joseph Arumachadath, mcbs was appointed as its first bishop. Thus, initially the territory of the diocese consisted of only one civil district, Shimoga. Later on, according to the decision of the Synod of Syro-Malabar bishops and with the assent of the Holy See, the Major Archbishop has decreed on 18 January 2010 (Prot. No. 63/2010) the transfer of the civil district of Chikmagalur belonging to the eparchy of Mananthavady, to the eparchy of Bhadravathi and thus extended the territory of the eparchy of Bhadravathi to include also the civil district of Chikmagalur in Karnataka State. The territory of the eparchy of Bhadravathi thus includes two civil districts of Karnataka State viz., Shimoga and Chikmagalur.
Shimoga and Chikmagalur districts are located centrally in Karnataka. They are geographically beautiful agrarian districts. Major rivers such as Tunga, Bhadra, and Varada run through them. Agriculture and animal husbandry are the major occupations of the people in Shimoga. Coffee is the major crop cultivated in Chikmagalur.
Bhadravathi, the seat of the eparchy, is an industrial town of Karnataka, located 20 km away from the city of Shimoga on the Bangalore Honnavara highway. The Eparchy has got 23 parishes and 10 sub-stations with a catholic population of 9,213. The territory of the Eparchy extends to an area of 15,666 sq. km. having a total population of 27,94,392. The vast majority of the population is Hindu. There is also a strong Muslim presence here. Christians, including all denominations, are a miniscule minority here.
Major part of the eparchy lies in the Western Ghats area adjoining the Deccan plateau. It is a region known for its green forests and good rainfall. This is predominantly an agrarian as well as an underdeveloped area. People of the area are generally peace loving and simple. The literacy rate is still low. About 40% are illiterate. There existed good co-operation between people of various religious and cultural traditions and the area was known for religious harmony.
Among the Christians the Catholics are the majority represented by all the three Rites in India namely, Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara. The Eparchy of Bhadravathi shares territorial jurisdiction with the Latin dioceses of Shimoga and Chikmagalur and the Syro-Malankara diocese of Puthur. There exists wonderful co-operation between these eparchies in giving a joint witness to the Gospel of love as one Church.