The diocese of Lucknow owes its remote origin to those courageous and selfless missionaries, especially the Capuchin Fathers from Italy, who left their homeland to travel to the huge and then unexplored Asian continent more than 400 years ago. Historical documents prove the existence of European Christian scholars and priests, initially the Jesuits, already in the court of Emperor Akbar in the 16th century. This movement of the Christian presence in the vast gangetic plain under the umbrella of the ‘Mughal Mission’ and later on the ‘Tibetian Mission’was the beginning of Christianity in north India. There were pockets of Christian communities in many places in the empire of Akbar and of later Moghuls, which in the subsequent centuries increased with the advent of the British in India.
On 12 January 1940 the huge diocese of Allahabad was divided to carve out a new diocese – ‘The Catholic Diocese of Lucknow’ situated in Lucknow the then capital of the Central Provinces. At that time (65 years ago) the Allahabad and Lucknow diocese were cared for by the Capuchin missionaries of the Bologna province in Italy. However due to the II world war and the fact that the Capuchin missionaries came from Italy then allies of Germany in the war, the British administration interned all of them in camps. Hence the nomination of the first bishop of Lucknow was delayed until after the war.
Most Rev. Dr. Albert Conrad De Vito, a Capuchin priest was appointed as the first Bishop of Lucknow on 12 December 1946 and took possession of the diocese on 16 February 1947. Hence due to the II world war and its consequences the Diocese of Lucknow became functional after seven years. During this period Bishop of Allahabad the Most Rev. Angelo Poli was the administrator of the newly created diocese of Lucknow.
The diocese of Lucknow comprised of 14 districts of Uttar Pradesh covering an area of 93,000 sq. kms. On 4 February 1989 this huge diocese was divided to form the new diocese of Bareilly consisting of the six districts and Father Anthony Fernandes, a priest of Varanasi diocese was appointed its first Bishop.
Good Bishop Albert Conrad De Vito suddenly passed away in 1970 during a home visit to Italy and Father Cecil de Sa, Vicar General of Bhopal was appointed as the first Indian Bishop of Lucknow. In 1983 after a ministry of 12 years in Lucknow, Bishop Cecil was transferred as the Archbishop of Agra and Bishop Alan de Lastic, the then Auxiliary Bishop of Calcutta, was appointed the new Bishop in his place.
In January 1991 Bishop Alan de Lastic was transferred as the Archbishop of Delhi and Father Albert D’Souza a priest of Lucknow diocese was appointed as the 4th Bishop of Lucknow. After serving 14 years of Episcopal ministry in Lucknow, Bishop Albert D’Souza was transferred as the Archbishop of Agra in March 2007.
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, transferred Bishop Gerald John Mathias, a priest of Lucknow diocese and the Bishop of Simla-Chandigarh diocese since 2000 as the 5th Bishop of Lucknow on 8 November 2007. He was installed on 4 January 2008 and commenced his Episcopal ministry in Lucknow.
Now the diocese of Lucknow comprises of 10 civil districts of Uttar Pradesh namely Lucknow, Hardoi, Unnao, Sitapur, Lakhimpur-Kheri, Gonda, Barabanki, Bahraich, Balrampur and Sravasti, covering an area of 45,000 sq kms, with a total population of 21 million of whom a mere 7,500 are Catholics.
Lucknow now has 89 diocesan priests, religious priests of five congregations (Capuchins, Salesians, Jesuits, CMI and IMS Fathers) Montfort and M.C. Brothers and about 200 sisters from 29 women Congregations and the Maids of the Poor Secular Institute. The story goes on, the Kingdom of God is taking root and the Holy Church of God continues to preach the Gospel until he comes!!