The Catholic Mission in Northern India takes its origin from the arrival of the Jesuit Missionaries in Fathepur Sikri in the year 1580 at the invitation of the Mugul Emperor Akbar. In 1601, they established their head quarters at Agra. In 1619, the Jesuit Missionaries were in Rajasthan, but the ruler there did not encourage the Christian message to spread. The Jesuit Missionaries were invited to Patna in 1620. There were a few Catholic Portuguese soldiers in the army. A Church was built and the foundation for a Catholic community was laid. When Capuchin Missionaries arrived in Patna in 1706 on their way to Tibet, they found about 150 Catholics.
When in 1773, the Jesuit Missionaries were suppressed, two Carmelite Fathers from Bombay succeeded them in Agra, who in turn were replaced by the Capuchins. Ever since, the Capuchin Missionaries have laboured relentlessly for the spread of the faith and the progress of the Catholic Church in north India. The year 1885 marks the beginning of the long process of divisions and sub-divisions of the Tibet-Hindustan region which led to the creation of not less than thirty ecclesiastical units of north India.
In the year of the Lord nineteen hundred and eighty nine, on the nineteenth day of the month of January, His Holiness John Paul II, the Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church took the momentous decision of erecting a new Diocese-the Diocese of Bareilly and promulgated the Bull “Indorum Inter Gentes”. By this Bull, six districts of the Diocese of Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh namely, Bareilly, Nainital, Almora, Pithoragarh, Shahjahanpur and Pilibhit were carved out to form the new Diocese of Bareilly having the church of St. Alphonsus, its Cathedral. The Diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Agra.
On the same day, the Holy Father appointed and proclaimed Very Rev. Anthony Fernandes, Vicar General of the Diocese of Varanasi as the Bishop-elect of the newly erected Diocese, by promulgating the Bull “Eodem Animi Pastoralis”.
Thus was fulfilled the long cherished dream of the late Bishop Conrad de Vito, Ofm. Cap, the first Bishop of Lucknow who, with remarkable foresight and vision had realized that the work of evangelizing and spreading the Gospel could not be achieved in an effective and concerted way if one pastor alone was given the care of the fourteen districts of his diocese. With the creation of the new state of Uttarakhand and with the further division of the districts the Catholic Diocese of Bareilly now comprises of nine districts of two Northern States, viz. districts of Bareilly, Shahjahanpur and Pilibhit from Uttar Pradesh and the District of Udham Singh Nagar, Nainital, Almorah, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh and Champawat from the State of Uttarakhand.
“Witness to the Light” is the coat of arms of Bishop Anthony Fernandes. “Christ, the Light” to whom the Diocese is pledged to bear witness and spread the light of love, peace and freedom. The Diocese must increase the apostolic zeal to pass on to others the light and joy of faith in the simplicity of St. Francis of Assisi and to be ready to serve the brethren especially, the poor and the needy, the sick and the unwanted. The green branches bordering the coat of arms is the sign of hope and the crown of all who live this message, while “Ave Maria,” our Lady watching from above directing the destiny of the Diocese.