The Archdiocese of Bulawayo was part of the extensive Zambesi Mission area under the care of the Jesuit fathers.
This area stretched from the Limpopo River northwards up to the 10th parallel of Southern Latitude; thus incorporating the whole of Southern Rhodesia (modern day Zimbabwe) and a very large part of Northern Rhodesia (modern day Zambia) up to the present northern border with the DRC (to the mouth of the Zambezi river, hence the name of Zambesi Mission), westwards along the Tropic of Capricorn to the eastern part of Bechuanaland (now called Botswana), up to the twenty second meridian of east longitude and eastwards to the present day Zimbabwe border with Portuguese East Africa (present day Mozambique). These boundaries enclosed a territory of 1 942 500 square kilometres (750 000 English miles).
On 20th June 1920 the first Conference of Catholic Missionaries in Rhodesia was held at Bulawayo at the Church of the Immaculate Conception.
The second Missionary Conference was held from 22nd June to the 21st July 1921 in Bulawayo.
In 1927 Northern Rhodesia (today called Zambia) became a Prefecture Apostolic under the care of the Polish Jesuits, thus reducing the size of the Zambesi Mission's territory. The new name of this prefecture was "The Apostolic Prefecture of Broken Hill" and the Southern Rhodesia prefecture became the Salisbury Prefecture . The Pope at this time was Pope Pius XI.
As missionary work progressed there was a movement to split the Southern Rhodesia territory into two along the lines of language distribution. The two main languages being Sindebele and Shona.This was duly done. The northern portion (Shona speakers) were under the care of the Trappist order (RMM) from Natal and the Matabeleland portion (Sindebele speakers) of Southern Rhodesia was under the care of the Jesuits.
In 1929 the Prefect Apostolic Mgr. R. Brown SJ suggested to the superior of the Trappists that the two orders exchange territories as the Trappists, having come from Natal, were used to working with Zulu speakers and Sindebele was closely allied to Zulu. The Jesuits on the other hand would relocate to Mashonaland and serve the Shona speakers. This swop would give the Trappists an independent territory. In October 1929 the last group of Trappists (now called Mariannhill Missionaries) left Mashonaland for Matabeleland. The first mission they resettled in Matabeleland was Empandeni in March 1930 and by April the same year the Mariannhill Missionaries had travelled to Bulawayo. Officially the Mission of Bulawayo was separated from the Salisbury Prefecture and officially confided to the care of the Mariannhill Missionaries on 1st May 1930.
Thus the Independent Mission of Bulawayo, now separated from the Salisbury Prefecture, was officially erected on the 23rd December 1930. On 12 July 1932 the district of Bulawayo was raised to a Prefecture Apostolic and became a Vicariate Apostolic on 13 April 1937.
The area of the Prefecture was further enlarged when the first church property outside of Southern Rhodesia was bought in April 1943 from the Tati Company. This land comprised two stands in Francistown and a concession for a "hut" to be built in the African township for the purposes of prayer.
In 1953, Hwange District and that part of Shangani District situated between Kana and the Shangani River was cut off from the Bulawayo Vicariate to form the Wankie Prefecture.
On 1 January 1955, the Vicariate Apostolic of Bulawayo was given the status of a Diocese.
The Prefecture Apostolic of Bechuanaland was established by the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of the Faith on 13th May 1959. The care of this new prefecture was committed to the Irish and Scottish Passionist Fathers. The Tati Concession, which was under the Diocese of Bulawayo, was incorporated into this new Prefecture. The first Prefect Apostolic was Monsignor Urban Murphy CP.
The creation of this new prefecture reduced the area of the Diocese of Bulawayo to the confines of the current (2013) boundaries: part of Lupane district and Nkayi in the north, following the Shangani River in the east as it moves south towards the border with South Africa, then west along the bank of the Shashe river including the Tuli Conservancy and then north west along the national border with Botswana, skirting the Hwange National Park, cutting north east to Tsholotsho and rejoining the boundary of the Hwange diocese on the northern boundary of the Lupane district.
On 10 June 1994, the Diocese of Bulawayo was raised to a Metropolitan See with the Dioceses of Gweru and Hwange as suffragans. Since the division of Gweru diocese the suffragan Sees of the Bulawayo Province are Gweru, Hwange and Masvingo.
The Holy Father John Paul II appointed His Lordship, the Right Reverend, Bishop Henry E. Karlen CMM as the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Bulawayo. The Archdiocese of Bulawayo comprises the following civil districts: Bulilima, Mangwe, Nyamandlovu, Tsholotsho, Bubi, part of Lupane and Nkayi with the Shangani River as boundary, Insiza, Umzingwane,Matobo, Beitbridge and Gwanda west of the Umzingwane River.
On 6th May 2013 St. Mary's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was raised to the status of a Minor Basilica. The Solemn Mass celebrating this status was held on the 31st August 2013.
LEADERSHIP: Growth and Development of Bulawayo
Prefect of Bulawayo
Giovanni Matteo Konings OSCr 1926-1929
Ecclesial Apostolic of Bulawayo
Ignatius Arnoz CMM 27 April 1931 - 18 June 1932
Prefect Apostolic of Bulawayo
Ignatius Arnoz CMM 18 June 1932 - 13 April 1937
Vicars Apostolic of Bulawayo
Ignatius Arnoz CMM 13 April 1937 - 26 February 1950
Adolph Gregory Schmidtt CMM 23 December 1950 - 1 January 1955
Bishops of Bulawayo
Adolph Gregory Schmidtt CMM 1 January 1955 - 9 May 1974
Ernst Henry Karlen CMM 9 May 1974 - 10 June 1994
Archbishops of Bulawayo
Ernst Henry Karlen CMM 10 June 1994 - 24 October 1997
Pius Alick Ncube (Diocesan) 24 October 1997 - 11 September 2007
Alex Thomas Kaliyanil SVD 20 June 2009 -
see the list of our ordinaries...
Photos of our history
see all photos of our history...