November 30, 2012

The history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Coat of Arms of the Archdiocese of IndianapolisThe Diocese of Vincennes—now the Archdiocese of Indianapolis—was established by Pope Gregory XVI on May 6, 1834. The territory then comprised the entire state of Indiana and the eastern third of Illinois. The latter was separated from the Diocese of Vincennes upon the establishment of the Diocese of Chicago on Nov. 28, 1843.

By decree of Pope Pius IX, on Jan. 8, 1857, the northern half of the state became the Diocese of Fort Wayne, the boundaries being that part of the state north of the south boundaries of Fountain, Montgomery, Boone, Hamilton, Madison, Delaware, Randolph and Warren counties.

The remaining southern half of the state made up the Diocese of Vincennes, embracing 50 counties. It covered an area of 18,479 square miles extending from the north boundaries of Marion and contiguous counties to the Ohio River and from Illinois on the west to Ohio on the east.

The second bishop of Vincennes was permitted by apostolic brief to establish his residence at Vincennes, Madison, Lafayette or Indianapolis. Vincennes was, however, to remain the see city. This permission, with the subtraction of Lafayette, was renewed to the fourth bishop.

Upon his appointment in 1878, Bishop Francis Chatard, the fifth bishop of Vincennes, was directed to establish his residence at Indianapolis.

Although the site of the cathedral and the title of the see were continued at Vincennes, Bishop Chatard used St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis as an unofficial cathedral until the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul was completed in 1907.

St. John the Evangelist Parish, established in 1837, was the first parish in Indianapolis and Marion County.

By apostolic brief dated March 28, 1898, the title of the diocese was changed to that of “Diocese of Indianapolis,” with the episcopal see in the city of Indianapolis.

Although the bishop’s official residence was changed, the patron of the diocese remained St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of the Old Cathedral at Vincennes.

An apostolic decree of Pope Pius XII, creating the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, was issued on Oct. 21, 1944. On Dec. 19, 1944, by executorial decree of the papal delegate, Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani, apostolic delegate to the United States, the papal decree of Pope Pius XII was solemnly proclaimed in SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, elevating Indianapolis to the status of an archdiocese, and the state of Indiana becoming the metropolitan area.

The dioceses of Evansville and Lafayette-in-Indiana were created by the same decree and, along with the Diocese of Fort Wayne, made suffragan sees of Indianapolis. Upon establishment of the Diocese of Gary on Feb. 25, 1957, it too became a suffragan see.

The current size of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is 13,757.7 square miles, according to 1990 measurements from the Indiana State Library Reference Division, and comprises the counties of Bartholomew, Brown, Clark, Clay, Crawford, Dearborn, Decatur, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Harrison, Hendricks, Henry, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Johnson, Lawrence, Marion, Monroe, Morgan, Ohio, Orange, Owen, Parke, Perry, Putnam, Ripley, Rush, Scott, Shelby, Switzerland, Union, Vermillion, Vigo, Washington and Wayne, and the township of Harrison in Spencer County, in the southern part of Indiana. †

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