Father Gilles Reithinger, superior general of the MEP, sent Thailand a letter recounting the history of the MEP’s work in Siam from their first arrival until the present. He also sent a special prayer for the Catholic community in Thailand. Below is the content from his letter.
“As the the Church in Thailand is celebrating his 350th jubilee year, MEP fathers are especially praying and thanking God for the Catholic community established there.
As we know, 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 followed the Dominican mission, with the goal of proclaiming the Good News in the United Siam of the Ayutthaya period (1351-1767).
At the end of the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V instituted a committee to promote evangelisation, which led to the creation of Sacred Congregation Propaganda Fide by Pope Gregory XV on 6 January 1622.
To contribute to spread the Gospel, the Société des Missions Etrangères de Paris, known as MEP, was created 8 June 1658. On 29 July 1658, Pope Alexander VII appointed Bishop François Pallu, MEP, as apostolic vicar to the Tonkin, which included some parts of China and the Kingdom of Laos.
On 17 August 1658, Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte, MEP, became Apostolic Vicar of the mission in Cochinchina, whose pastoral outreach included the lands south of China.
In 1662, there were 11 Catholic priests in Ayutthaya. Two years later, Bishop François Pallu and a group of missionaries organised a synod in Ayutthaya, chaired by Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte, together with Bishop François Pallu, five priests and lay people.
One of the main decisions was to open a seminary for the formation of diocesan priests. In 1665, H.M.King Narai granted Mgr Pierre Lambert de la Motte permission to set up such a school.
In 1667, Bishop François Pallu returned to Rome for an audience with the Holy Father, who ordered the creation of the Siam mission on 4 July 1669, under the bishop appointed by the Sacred Congregation Propaganda Fide.
With the blessing of the Holy See, Bishops François Pallu and Pierre Lambert de la Motte selected Father Louis Laneau, MEP, as Apostolic Vicar of the Siam mission. The bishop’s consecration was celebrated on 25 March 1674 in Ayutthaya.
Today the Catholic Church in Thailand has about 300,000 faithful and 662 priests.
Until today, 180 MEP missionaries are working under the direction of the local bishops [globally]. The Society recruits and trains candidates and sends them to mission territories where MEP has contracts with the local bishops. They serve the mission by engaging in apostolates proper to missio ad gentes, help promote local vocations and clergy, and help establish local churches. Twelve seminarians are following a formation in Paris and five are discerning their vocation during the Propedeutic year.