The prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is in Bangkok. His pastoral visit will end on May 21 in Ayutthaya, cradle of Thai Christianity. The first missionaries to settle in Siam were two Portuguese Dominicans in 1567. Today, the country has about 300,000 Catholics, or 0.46% of the population.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Map Fernando Filoni (on the picture), Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, arrived in Bangkok today for the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the creation of the Apostolic Vicariate of Siam in 1669.
Card Filoni’s pastoral visit will begin tomorrow in the Assumption Cathedral, where he will meet the Catholic community of Bangkok and members of the Thai Conference of Catholic Bishops (CBCT).
On Saturday morning, the festivities marking the historic anniversary will open in Sam Phran, a district of the province of Nakhon Pathom, with a solemn Eucharistic celebration. Catholics will come from the capital, as well as from the southern and central provinces of the country.
In the afternoon, Card Filoni will meet religious, seminarians and catechists at the church dedicated to Fr. Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung (1895-1944). Better known as Father Benedikto Chunkim, he was the first priest martyr of modern Thailand, whom Pope John Paul II proclaimed blessed on March 5, 2000.
In the Catholics of the North can attend mass in Chiang Mai on the evening of May 19. Local ethnic and tribal groups live in different communities in the mountains and valleys, amidst poverty as well as social and geographic marginalization.
Representatives of the Lanna and Akha ethnic groups will welcome the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. For his part, Card Filoni will express to them the closeness of the universal Church.
The next day, May 20, he will meet the Karens of Mae-Porn, with whom he will celebrate another mass. His visit will end on May 21 in Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam and the cradle of Thai Christianity.
Today, Thailand has about 300,000 Catholics, or 0.46% of the total population, served by 11 dioceses, with 436 parishes and 662 priests.
The first missionaries to arrive in the Kingdom were the Portuguese Dominicans Jeronimo da Cruz and Sebastiâo da Canto, in 1567. The Franciscan and Jesuit missions succeeded the Dominican mission, with the aim of proclaiming the Good News in United Siam of the period of Ayutthaya (1351-1767).
Subsequently, at the end of the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V established a committee to promote evangelism, which led to the creation of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Fide propaganda) by Pope Gregory XV on January 6, 1622.
To help spread the Gospel, the Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris (French: Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris, MEP) was created. On July 29, 1658, Pope Alexander VII appointed a member of the MEP, François Pallu, apostolic vicar in Tonkin, which included parts of China and the kingdom of Laos.
On August 17 of the same year, Mgr Pierre Lambert de la Motte, MEP, becomes apostolic vicar of the mission in Cochinchina, whose pastoral mission includes the lands of southern China.
In 1662 there were 11 Catholic priests in Ayutthaya – four of them were Jesuits, two Dominicans, two Franciscans and three others. Two years later, Bishop Pallu and some newly arrived missionaries organized a synod in Ayutthaya, chaired by Bishop de la Motte, with Bishop Pallu, five priests and a layman.
Among the main decisions was the creation of a seminary for the training of diocesan priests. In 1665, King Narai granted Bishop de la Motte the authorization to found such a school.
In 1667, Bishop Pallu returned to Rome for an audience with the Pope, who ordered the creation of the mission of Siam on July 4, 1669, under the leadership of the bishop appointed by Propaganda Fide.
With the blessing of the Holy See, the Bishops Pallu and de la Motte have chosen Don Louis Laneau, priest of the MEP, as apostolic vicar of the mission in Siam. The consecration of the bishop was celebrated on March 25, 1674 in Ayutthaya.