30 May 2015, Bangalore: His Holiness Pope Francis appointed Rev. Fr. Eugene Joseph, of the clergy of Varanasi as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Varanasi. This provision was made public in Rome on Saturday 30 May, 2015, at noon local time, corresponding to 15:30 hours, Indian Standard Time.
Fr Joseph is currently the diocesan administrator of the diocese which has been without a prelate since the transfer of Bishop Raphy Manjaly to Allahabad in December 2013.
The bishop-elect was born on 31 July 31 1958, at Rajakamangalam, Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu. After schooling at Carmel School, Nagercoil, he studied at St. Theresa’s Minor Seminary, Ajmer in Rajasthan, and then at St. Charles Seminary, Nagpur, Maharashtra. He was ordained a priest for Varanasi diocese on 10 April 1985.
He a Master’s degree in English from Mahatma Gandhi K. V. University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and Masters in Business Administration and Management from Townsend School of Business, New York, United States. He speaks English, Hindi and Tamil.
As a priest he was assistant pastor in St. Thomas Parish, Shahganj and correspondent of St. Thomas Inter-College; vice-rector of the Minor Seminary. He was also principal of St. John Inter-College; pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Ghazipur and Vicar Forane of Ghazipur Deanery. He was also director of Regional Pastoral Centre and principal of Nav Sadhana College, Varanasi. Other jobs he held were the director of St. Mary’s Hospital, Varanasi and vicar general secretary of Education Society of the diocese. He was the founding Director of Varanasi’s St. Mary’s School of Nursing. He became the diocesan administrator in December 2013.
The diocese is based in Varanasi city, a Hindu spiritual centre on the banks of the Ganges, about 780 kilometers southeast of New Delhi. Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Jains live together in the diocesan area of 21,395 square kilometers. Catholics number just 17,044 in a population of more than 21 million people in the area. Some 3,000 Catholics live in the ancient city of Varanasi, where Hindus come to take a ritual bath in the Ganges River on prescribed days, believing that such actions will wash away their sins.
The diocese, created in 1970, had been led by Bishop D´Souza for the past 37 years. It has 42 parishes, 38 educational institutions, 28 dispensaries, 16 orphanages and four hospitals. The diocese, considering the uniqueness of its location, has also set up five Catholic ashrams (spiritual centers), where people follow Hindu prayer and meditation disciplines.