Diocese of Palayamkottai - History
His Holiness Pope Paul VI, by the Bull "Romani Pontifices" dated 17th May 1973, decreed the erection of the Diocese of Palayamkottai. Palayamkottai, one of the vicariates of the Archdiocese of Madurai, became the separate 13th diocese in Tamilnadu Region, India. It remains as one of the suffragans of the Archdiocese of Madurai. His Grace P. Justin Diraviam, the then Archbishop of Madurai, in virtue of powers delegated to him, gave effect to the terms of the Bull on 9th September 1973. The nominated first Bishop of Palayamkottai, Rev. Msgr. S. Iruthayaraj took canonical possession of the diocese on 9th September 1973, and was consecrated as the first Bishop of Palayamkottai on 12th September 1973 at Palayamkottai by Archbishop P. Justin Diraviam of Madurai Archdiocese.
Bishop S. Iruthayaraj pastored the diocese of Palayamkottai for 26 years and contributed to its growth in the various fields of spiritual, pastoral, educational, social, developmental ecumenical activities etc. He voluntarily retired from his Episcopal ministry of the diocese on July, 1999. The college of consultors elected Fr. Susai Marian, as administrator of the diocese and he was approved by the Holy See to run the diocese till the new bishop was to be appointed. On 9 November, 2000 Rome announced Fr. Jude Paulraj, who was then Rector of Christ Hall Major Seminary, Madurai the second Bishop of Palayamkottai. He was consecrated by Archbishop Arockiasamy of Madurai at Palayamkottai on 8th December 2000, which was his priestly ordination day too. By his dedication and commitment as his motto goes, "In Your Name to Serve & Sacrifice" he is shepherding the diocese as a good pastor towards its fullness of life and growth.
Before the erection of the diocese of Palayamkottai, this area was evangelized by the Society of Jesus of Mad urai Jesuit Province. The history of Christianity begins from the time of St. Francis Xavier, in 1542. The old Madurai Mission was taking care of the spiritual needs of the Catholics. Some of the renowned Jesuit missionaries like St. John de Britto (1686-1688) (Martyred in Oriyur now in the diocese of Sivagangai) Fr Constantine Beschi (1714) have spent part of their missionary lives in this area and helped the Christians to strengthen their faith. From the beginning of the 20th Century, Diocesan priests from the Diocese of Trichirapalli were caring for the spiritual needs of the Catholics.
After the erection of the Archdiocese of Madurai, this part came under the Archdiocese of Madurai. At the time of the erection of the Diocese of Palayamkottai there were only six Jesuit priests working in the parishes. Gradually they were replaced by the diocesan priests. At present there are only one Jesuit priest in the parish and 16 Jesuit priests in St. Xavier's Arts and B.Ed. College, Palayamkottai. Madurai Jesuit Province has contributed much to Christianity in this diocese. The Diocese of Palayamkottai is much indebted to the society. Also the tireless ministries by the brothers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (SHJ) during the infantile period of the diocese are greatfully remembered.