Friday, February 03, 2017

Thai Church preparing to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the ‘Mission to Siam’

http://www.asianews.it/files/img/Cathedral_in_Bangkok_.jpgOn 4 July 2019, the Thai Church will celebrate with joy the 350th anniversary (1669-2019) of the creation of the Apostolic Vicariate of United Siam, the country’s first Catholic body.
 
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand (CBCT) welcomes this opportunity to proclaim joyfully the three years (2017-2019) as a time to rediscover in earnest our Catholic faith through basic communities, and in accordance with the directives of the General Assembly of 2015.

Thus, proclaiming the Good News in every field will bear fruit, and the faithful will be led to be disciples of Jesus Christ with a life consistent with the faith, starting with bearing witness within small communities and proclaiming the Good News and the experience of the civilisation of love to Thais of every faith. 
In view of this anniversary, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Thailand (CBCT), presided by Card Francis Xavier Kierngsak Kovidhavanij, announced on 8 January a pastoral letter on The celebration on the occasion of the creation of the Mission to Siam (1669-2019).

However, according to the historical record, two Portuguese Dominicans, Jerônimo da Cruz and Sebastião do Canto, had arrived in the kingdom of Siam in 1567. Hence, 2017 will actually be the 450th anniversary of the arrival of the first group of foreign missionaries on Thai soil. This was the first step for subsequent evangelisations. 

In fact, the Dominicans were followed by Franciscans and Jesuits, with the common goal of proclaiming the Good News in the Kingdom of Siam at the time of the Ayutthaya reign (1351-1767).

Subsequently, at the end of the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V instituted a committee to promote evangelisation in earnest. This led to the creation of Propaganda Fide by Pope Gregory XV on 6 January 1622. And, to help spread the Good News, the Missions Étrangères de Paris, the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), was set up.

The first MEP member was appointed Apostolic Vicar in a foreign land. On 29 July 1658, Pope Alexander VII appointed MEP François Pallu apostolic vicar to the Tonkin, which included parts of China and the Kingdom of Laos. On 17 August of the same year, he appointed another MEP, Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte, apostolic vicar of the mission to Cochin China, responsible for pastoral outreach in the region south of China.

Bishop de la Motte, the first bishop to reach the Kingdom of Siam on 22 August 1662, recorded the situation of the Catholic Church in Siam. He wrote, "In 1662 there are 11 Catholic priests in Ayutthaya, four of whom are Jesuits, two Dominicans, two Franciscans, and three other non-ascetic priests.”

Two years later, Bishop Pallu and some missionaries who had arrived in 1664 organised a synod in Ayutthaya, chaired by Bishop de la Motte, together with Bishop Pallu, five priests and a layman. Its conclusions had three main parts.

First, it established a seminary for the training of the diocesan priesthood, the main goal of Propaganda Fide. in 1665, King Narai granted Bishop de la Motte the right to set up the seminary.

Second, "the ethical conduct that must be practiced" by priests who proclaim the Good News and the principles of behaviour include the spirituality of all the missionaries who come to evangelise the Far East.

Third, the congregation of ‘Love of the Cross’ was created on 7 September 1672. This was a diocesan body to help the missionaries proclaim the Good News and engage in pastoral outreach to the faithful.

In 1667, Bishop Pallu returned to Rome for an audience with the pope and ask permission in various manners. The most important one authorised by the pope on 4 July 1669 was the creation of the Mission to Siam under a bishop appointed by Propaganda Fide. 

Authorised by the Holy See, Bishops Pallu and de la Motte chose Don Louis Laneau, an MEP priest who had accompanied Bishop Pallu as apostolic vicar IN the mission to Siam. The consecration of Bishop Laneau, the first apostolic vicar in the mission to Siam, was celebrated on 25 March 1674 in Ayutthaya.

Thus, 2019 will be the 350th anniversary of the official creation of the ‘Mission to Siam’ in the Kingdom of Thailand. For all these years, missionaries have dedicated their lives to proclaiming the Good News to the Thai people and for others who live in the kingdom of Siam, as noted in the letter of Bishop Pallu: "We are at the beginning of the bridge between Europe and Asia. I am pleased to give my body and my bones, even those of my beloved fellow missionaries, as pillars to strengthen that bridge, which is a passageway for brave new missionaries who want to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and cross the bridge in the future."

With gratitude, the Church goes forward in the future.

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