Vatican City (Fides Service) - The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II has, 27 February 2004, created the new Ecclesiastic Province of Raipur, dividing it from the Ecclesiastic Province of Bhopal (India). The new Ecclesiastic Province will comprise the suffragan dioceses of Ambikapur, Jagdalpur of the Syro-Malabar Catholics and Raigarh.
The Holy Father has appointed first metropolitan Archbishop of Raipur, Mgr Joseph Augustine Charanakunnel, until now Bishop of the same diocese.
The new Ecclesiastic Province
In India there are 19 Ecclesiastic Provinces of Latin Rite and a total number of 110 suffragan Dioceses, 10 of these are of Oriental Rite. The decision to divide the Ecclesiastic Province of Bhopal and create a new one Raipur came after the creation of the new Indian state of Chhattisgarh, with territory taken from the State of Madhya Pradesh, on November 1, 2000. The proposal was approved by the Bishops’ Conference.
The Ecclesiastic Province Bhopal after the division will have the following suffragan dioceses: Bhopal, Gwalior, Indore, Jabalpur, Jhabua, Khandwa, Sagar of Syro-Malabar Catholics, Satna of Syro-Malabar Catholics, Ujjai of Syro-Malabar Catholics. It will have altogether an area of 297,169 sq. km, a population of 46,675,174, including 132,409 Catholics, assisted by 608 priests and 1,933 women religious
The Ecclesiastic Province of Raipur will have an area of 135,242 sq. km, a population of 19.057.921, including 367.028 Catholics, assisted by 496 priests and 1,380 women religious and it will comprise the whole State of Chhattisgarh and have as suffragan dioceses: Ambikapur, Jagdalpur of Syro-Malabar Catholics and Raigarh. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 18/3/2004; Righe 19; Parole 222)