According to Everyman's Encyclopedia the term 'Diocese' means a district under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction and care of a bishop. The word in its present ecclesiastical signification was not in common use till about the 9th century. Paroikia [parish] being the more usual term up to the time. For a longtime the term was primarily used in the civil administration of the Roman Empire. Constantine [ 306 - 337 A.D ], the great Roman Emperor divided his empire into 13 ecclesiastical and political divisions.
The ecclesiastical district was brought under a patriarch, while the political district under a praetorian prefect. Later district dwindled to mean single metropolitanate or province and finally merely the sphere of jurisdiction of any one bishop. In the Catholic Church, Dioceses are erected by the Pope in Consortium of Bishops.
During the later part of the 19th century the expansion of the church activities in India invited the attention of the Pope in Rome to organize the administration of the churches. Pope Leo XIII established the Indian Hierarchy in 1886. Since then the church in India has grown into a number of ecclesiastical provinces, each under an Archbishop who has one or more suffragan bishops within his jurisdiction . In 1899 Pope Leo XIII created the diocese of Kumbakonam by the dismemberment from the Archdiocese of Pondicherry.
Thus the parishes in Salem region with about 45,000 Catholics were divided among the Diocese of Kumbakonam and Mysore for thirty years from 1899 to 1930.
On 26th May, 1930 the Diocese of Salem comprising the civil districts of Salem and Dharmapuri was erected by Pope Pius XI canonically. It was created by merging 6 parishes from the jurisdiction of Pondicherry, three parishes from Kumbakonam and one parish from Mysore diocese in 1943. Two parishes in Mettur Taluk which were originally under the jurisdiction of Mysore Diocese were also added to the Diocese of Salem.
He was the first Bishop of Salem and was appointed on September 14, 1930. He was entrusted with 12 parishes and twenty-six priests. Under his able guidance, the diocese witnessed a remarkable progress. The two taluks of Namakkal and Trichengodu in the south which had never heard of the gospel were evangelized. By 1949, when Bishop Prunier handed over the administration to the Indian Clergy, Christianity had spread over as many as fifty villages in Salem Diocese. To continue the mission of diocese, he increased the number of Indian clergy enormously. As the diocese did not have enough priests and postulants, he invited some priests from Kerala to do their ministry in Salem diocese.
In order to train the priests he started St. Xavier's Minor Seminary at Srirangapalayam. He appointed Fr. Florance as the Rector of the seminary. He started many schools and hostels to cater to the needs of Salemites. He established St. Theresa's Technical Institute for the young students to get training in technical education. In 1947, due to his severe illness, he resigned his post. However, he continued his service as an Apostolic Administrator for a couple of years. On 1st May, 1949, Rev.Dr.V.S. Selvanathar who was appointed by Pope Pius XII succeeded him as the second Bishop of Salem.
He was the first Indian Bishop of Salem diocese. His contribution to the development of education in Salem district is praiseworthy. He started many schools and hostels. Since the diocese did not have sufficient number of priests, he sought the help of sisters to administer the newly started educational institutions. A Leprosy Relief Rural Centre was started as a unit of Salem diocese at Settipatti in a small rented house in 1955. In the same year the Christian Seva Sangam was established. He also setup a centre for social work to take care of socially backward people in the diocese in 1968. Bishop Selvanather was elevated as the Archbishop of Pondicherry and Cuddalore
(c) Rapid Development of Diocese under Bishop Dr. Michael Bosco Duraisamy [1974 - 1999]. On 10th June, 1974 Rev.Dr. Michael Duraisamy was consecrated as the third Bishop of Salem Diocese by Cardinal Krol He took keen interest in developing the Salem diocese.
Many priests went around the villages to spread the Gospel. For the sake of efficient administration, parishes were grouped together to form seven vicariates. They are(1) Salem
In order to conduct pastoral programmes of the diocese, he built Epiphany Centre in 1977 A.D. He took an active part in fostering inter-religionus understanding among the people of Salem . Due to his farsighted planning and strenuous efforts, the diocese of Salem witnessed a double increase in the number of parishes and priests and educational institutions. He made the diocese grow economically strong and self-reliant in several fields. He also started three hospitals, eleven dispensaries, two leprosy centres, three asylums for the mentally retarded, one home for the aged, and thirteen homes for the children and three centres for tailoring . Thus the Salem diocese witnessed tremendous growth in various fields till it was bifurcated in 1997.
Since the diocese grew in strength, Bishop Michael Duraisamy initiated the move for the creation of Dharmapuri Diocese detaching the civil district of Dharmapuri from the Diocese of Salem. In order to fulfill the pastoral needs of the growing catholic population, the Dharmapuri Diocese was erected by the Holy See Pope John Paul II on Friday, April 25th 1997. His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdusamy installed the new Bishop of Dharmapuri in the Sacred Heart Cathedral at Dharmapuri at 5:00 p.m. in the presence of the clergy, religious and the laity. The creation of new Diocese of Dharmapuri, which was carved out of Salem Diocese was a monumental sign of the rapid development of Salem Diocese.
Bishop. Rev. Dr. Singaroyan was consecrated as the fourth bishop of Salem on 26th October, 2000 as a gift of Jubilee 2000. During this short span of time the Diocese has developed by leaps and bounds in many spheres especially in the spiritual aspect of the life of the people. The no. of parishes has increased from 38 to 43. He is an able administrator. As a benevolent shepherd of the flock of Salem Diocese, he has taken consistent efforts to fulfill the pastoral needs of the people by conducting retreats, seminars, mission preaching and many other awareness programmers. He is called the People's Bishop due to his intimate rapport with the faithful by making frequent visits to all the parishes of the diocese.