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Establishment of the ARCHdiocese of Indianapolis-1944

This week marks a very special time in the history of Catholicism in Indiana.

Toward the end of World War-II, just before Christmas, Europe was still enveloped in war. The “Battle of the Bulge” was almost over and Nazi Germany would fold in less than six months. The Church continued to function and in Indiana there was celebration because the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII had proclaimed in October that the Diocese of Indianapolis was to become what is known as a Metropolitan See, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

On December 19th 1944, by executorial decree of the papal delegate, the Most Reverend 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, 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 February 25, 1957, it too became a suffragan see.

Abp. Timothy McNicholas

Abp. Timothy McNicholas

Interesting enough, the whole process took place, mainly through the urging of Archbishop John Timothy McNicholas, who was, at the time, the Archbishop of Cincinnati. Nineteen years previously he had been named Bishop of Indianapolis and Bishop Joseph Chartrand was named Archbishop of Cincinnati. For reasons known only to those involved, the two men were allowed to switch and Chartrand was re-appointed to Indianapolis and McNicholas went to Cincinnati. If this switch had not happened, I wonder if the establishment of Indianapolis as an Archdiocese would have ever happened?

It was McNicholas who urged the break up of the Cincinnati province. He wanted to make sure that there was a “rural” diocese included in the new Indianapolis province. He suggested the southeastern part of the State, with Richmond or New Albany as the see city, but that suggestion obviously did not pan out. It was also suggested that St. Meinrad Abbey and Vincennes should remain as part of Indianapolis. The first part happened with one township of Harrison County remaining within the boundaries of Indianapolis. Vincennes, however, became a part of the new Diocese of Evansville.

Listen to the reading of the decree, recorded in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter & Paul on this day in 1944

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[Originally posted in December 2015]


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