Historical Background

The Archdiocese of Imphal covers the entire State of Manipur. Manipur is bounded by Nagaland in the North, Mizoram in the South, Upper Myanmar in the East and Cachar district of Assam in the West. To get a better view of the Church, it is important to have an idea of the political history of Manipur.

Political History

Earlier, Manipur was a princely kingdom under the King (Ningthou or Maharaja) of Manipur. It came under the British rule in 1891. The Manipur Constitution Act, 1947, established a democratic form of government with the Maharaja as the Executive Head and a legislative Assembly constituted by election on adult franchise. The legislative Assembly was dissolved on the integration of the State with the Dominion of India in October, 1949. Then it was governed as though it were a Chief Commissioner’s Province and then as a Part “C” State under the Indian Constitution with effect from 26 January 1950. In 1951 an advisory form of popular government was introduced and in 1957 this was replaced by a Territorial Council of 30 elected and 2 nominated members. In 1963, a legislative assembly of 30 elected and 3 nominated members was established. The status of the Administrator was raised from that of a Chief Commissioner to that of a Lieutenant Governor in December, 1969. Thus, Manipur remained a Union Territory from 1956 and became a full-fledged State in 1972. Manipuri was recognised as a national language in 1992.

Church History

The American Baptists began a successful mission in Manipur in 1908 among the hill tribes of Manipur and the missionaries had no permission from the Maharaja of Manipur to work among the Meiteis. One of the outstanding pioneer missionaries was William Pettigrew. The first Catholic Missionary, Rev. Fr. Angsgar Koenigsbaver, SDS, a German Salvatorian missionary looking after Assam Mission, came to Manipur in the year 1912. He found 19 Catholics, 17 of whom belong to the band of the regiment which was stationed here. The Maharaja of Manipur told Fr. Angsgar that he had no objection to the opening of a Catholic Mission in Imphal, the capital of the princely State. Due to the limited resources and personnel the opportunity to evangelize Manipur could not be realized.Thirty six years later, two Salesian missionaries, Fr. O.Marengo, SDB, and Fr. Attilio Colussi, SDB, who were working in Guwahati, Assam, visited Imphal. On meeting the Maharaja they were told: “You (missionaries) are welcome to Manipur. I am a former pupil of St. Edmund’s School, Shillong.” He gave them permission to enter Manipur and operate their mission in the hills of Manipur. This implied that they were not to work in the Valley, which had been dominated by the Hindu Vaishnavites and some pockets of Muslims. The Missionaries visited Ukhrul, a hill station in the east, on that occasion.

The organised work of evangelization in Manipur actually began with the erection of the Diocese of Dibrugarh in 1951, with Bishop O. Marengo, SDB, as Manipur was drawn within his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Every year Bishop Marengo visited Manipur and pushed the work ahead with the co-operation of the burning zeal of the laity. The Catholic faith among the Tangkhuls, one of the first hill tribes to accept the faith, was brought by Mr. Dominic Shomi, former pupil of St. Anthony’s School, Shillong, and Mr. George Hongrei, former student of Don Bosco School, Guwahati. In 1952, Fr. Marocchino, chaplain of the Kohima Hospital, was invited to Hundung, a village near Ukhrul. Mr. Shomi had prepared 350 persons ready to embrace the faith. Fr. Marocchino gave them more instructions and received them into the Church.

The best way to promote the work of evangelization, as Bishop Marengo saw it, was to have resident priests in the area. Losing no time, he sent Fr. A. Ravalico, SDB, and Fr. Peter Bianchi, SDB, as the first resident priests who reached Imphal on 5th March, 1956. Initially, they lived in a rented house in Imphal. The following year, on 7th May, 1957, they acquired a new house (the present site of the “Nirmalabas”) in the heart of the town. Towards the end of that year, Fr. Felix, SDB, and Fr. Venturoli, SDB, joined them in the mission. The Church in Manipur began to take its roots gradually and firmly. The vastness of the Lord’s vineyard demanded more workers to the harvest. In 1958, Fr. Joseph Kachiramattam, the first diocesan priest to step into Manipur soil, arrived in Imphal and joined the community of the Salesian missionaries. Later, two other diocesan priests, Fr. Mathew Planthottam and Fr. Mani Parankulangara reached Manipur in 1959 and 1961 respectively. Since then, more priests and religious have strengthened the promotion of the evangelization work in Manipur. Among the pioneering Women Religious Congregations, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA), the Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC), Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) and Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (SABS) are also worth mentioning. The Diocese of Kohima-Imphal which included the two states of Nagaland and Manipur was erected on 29th January 1973 by Pope Paul VI, with Rt. Rev. Abraham Alangimattathil, SDB, as its first Bishop. Bifurcating the Diocese of Kohima-Imphal, the Diocese of Imphal comprising of the entire State of Manipur was erected by Pope John Paul II on 21st April 1980, with Rt. Rev. Joseph Mittathany, then bishop of Tezpur, as its first Bishop. Later, on 1st August 1995, his Holiness, John Paul II, raised the Diocese to the status of an Archdiocese with Most Rev. Joseph Mittathany as the Archbishop. The Holy Father appointed Very Rev. Fr. Dominic Lumon as Coadjutor Archbishop of Imphal on Janury 18, 2002 and he was ordained a Coadjutor Archbishop of Imphal by Most Rev. Joseph Mittathany on April 7, 2002. The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Most Rev. Joseph Mittathany as the Archbishop of Imphal and by virtue of “Coadjutorship’ Most Rev. Dominic Lumon took over as the Archbishop of Imphal on 12 July 2006. in the heart of the town. Towards the end of that year, Fr. Felix, SDB, and Fr. Venturoli, SDB, joined them in the mission. The Church in Manipur began to take its roots gradually and firmly.

The vastness of the Lord’s vineyard demanded more workers to the harvest. In 1958, Fr. Joseph Kachiramattam, the first diocesan priest to step into Manipur soil, arrived in Imphal and joined the community of the Salesian missionaries. Later, two other diocesan priests, Fr. Mathew Planthottam and Fr. Mani Parankulangara reached Manipur in 1959 and 1961 respectively. Since then, more priests and religious have strengthened the promotion of the evangelization work in Manipur. Among the pioneering Women Religious Congregations, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA), the Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC), Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) and Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (SABS) are also worth mentioning. The Diocese of Kohima-Imphal which included the two states of Nagaland and Manipur was erected on 29th January 1973 by Pope Paul VI, with Rt. Rev. Abraham Alangimattathil, SDB, as its first Bishop. Bifurcating the Diocese of Kohima-Imphal, the Diocese of Imphal comprising of the entire State of Manipur was erected by Pope John Paul II on 21st April 1980, with Rt. Rev. Joseph Mittathany, then bishop of Tezpur, as its first Bishop. Later, on 1st August 1995, his Holiness, John Paul II, raised the Diocese to the status of an Archdiocese with Most Rev. Joseph Mittathany as the Archbishop. The Holy Father appointed Very Rev. Fr. Dominic Lumon as Coadjutor Archbishop of Imphal on Janury 18, 2002 and he was ordained a Coadjutor Archbishop of Imphal by Most Rev. Joseph Mittathany on April 7, 2002. The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Most Rev. Joseph Mittathany as the Archbishop of Imphal and by virtue of “Coadjutorship’ Most Rev. Dominic Lumon took over as the Archbishop of Imphal on 12 July 2006.