Nantes (Agenzia Fides) – The history of evangelization in Laos holds various martyrs who gave their lives to make the seed of the faith grow in the small southeastern Asian nation.
Today, the canonization process of 15 missionaries (religious and laity), killed in Laos between 1954-1970, has been officially opened in Nantes (France). Among them are two Laotian priests, missionaries of various nationalities (many of them French), members of religious congregations of the Paris Foreign Missions and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), and 4 Catholic lay persons, as well.
Bishop George Soubrier of Nantes, in conformity with the instructions given by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, has sent all the necessary documentation to the Holy See, communicating the opening of the diocesan phase of the Process, in which testimonies and information will be collected. The General Postulator for the Cause is Fr. Roland Jacques, of the Diocese of Nantes.
Here is the list of the 15 martyrs on the way to canonization:
Fr. Joseph Tien, Laos 5/12/1918, + Muang Xoi (Sam Neua) 2/6/1954, first Laotian martyr; Fr. Jean-Baptiste Malo, M.E.P., Nantes (F) 1899, + Ha Tinh (Vietnam) 1954; Fr. René Dubroux, M.E.P., Lorraine (F) 1914, + Palay (Champasak) 1959; Fr. Louis Leroy, O.M.I., Normandy 1923, + Ban Pha (Xieng Khouang) 1961; Fr. Michel Coquelet, O.M.I., France 1931, + Sop Xieng (Xieng Kh.) 1961; catechist Joseph Outhay, Thailand 1933, + Savannakhet 1961; Fr. Noël Tenaud, M.E.P, Vendée (France)1904, + Savannakhet 1961; Fr. Vincent L’Hénoret, O.M.l., Bretagne 1921, + Ban Ban (Xieng Kh.)1961; Fr. Marcel Denis, M.E.P., Atenon (France) 1919, + Khammouane 1961; Fr. Jean Wauthier, O.M.l., France 1926, + Ban Na (Xieng Khouang) 1967; layman Thomas Khampheuane, Laos 1952, + Paksong (Champasak) 1968; Fr. Lucien Galan, M.E.P., France 1921, + Paksong (Champasak) 1968; Fr. Joseph Boissel, O.M.l., France 1909, + Hat l-Et (Bolikhamsay) 1969; catechist Luc Sy, Laos 1938, + Den Din (Vientiane Province) 1970; layman Maisam Pho Inpeng, Laos 1934, + Den Din 1970.
Another Cause for Canonization has been opened for Italian missionary Fr. Mario Borzaga, OMI and Laotian catechist Paul Thoj Xyooj, also martyrs in Laos.
Laos was first evangelized by the priests from the Paris Foreign Missions (MEP) in the late 1800s. In 1935, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) arrived in 1935 and in the late 50s, there began to be local native priests. The guerrilla warfare that raged through the country, causing political and social instability, eventually cost the missionaries their lives. In 1975, with the rise of the Pathet Lao socialists, all foreign missionaries and religious were forced to leave the country. Many local priests were put in prison or in “re-education” camps.
Religious practice was suppressed until 1991. Over the years, all the priests have been freed and freedom of worship has grown. The government now permits the construction of buildings with religious purposes and there have also been recent ordinations of priests. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 6/11/2008)