Catholic Church in Laos
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The Catholic Church in Laos is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the pope in Rome. The Catholic Church is officially recognized by the Lao Front for National Construction.
There are no dioceses in the country. Rather, Laos is divided into four Apostolic Vicariates, which are pre-diocesan jurisdictions that are entitled to a titular bishop and are exempt, i.e., directly subject to the Holy See and its missionary Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The four vicariates are:
- Vicariate Apostolic of Luang Prabang
- Vicariate Apostolic of Paksé
- Vicariate Apostolic of Savannakhet
- Vicariate Apostolic of Vientiane
The Holy See has an Apostolic Delegation (papal diplomatic legation of lower rank than an embassy) to Laos. The delegation, however, is based in Bangkok, the capital of neighbouring Thailand. The papal legation to Laos is vested in the Apostolic nuncio to Thailand (as are also the papal legations to Cambodia and Myanmar).
On 1899.05.04 the Apostolic Vicariate of Laos was established on territory split off from the Apostolic Vicariate of Eastern Siam; it would on 1950.12.21 be renamed as Apostolic Vicariate of Thare, after its new see in Thailand, to become the present (Thai) Metropolitan Archdiocese of Thare and Nonseng.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Laos lost Laotian territories in two splits :
- on 1938.06.14 the Apostolic Prefecture of Vientiane and Luang-Prabang was split off, which on 1952.03.13 was promoted as Apostolic Vicariate of Vientiane
- on 1950.12.21 Apostolic Prefecture of Thakhek was split off, which on 1958.02.24 was promoted as Apostolic Vicariate of Thakhek, which on 1963.11.26 was renamed as Apostolic Vicariate of Savannakhet
On 1963.03.01 the Apostolic Vicariate of Luang Prabang was in turn split off from the Apostolic Vicariate of Vientiane.
On 1967.06.12 the Apostolic Vicariate of Pakse was split off from the Apostolic Vicariate of Savannakhet).
There are approximately 45,000 Laotian Catholics, many of whom are ethnic Vietnamese, concentrated in major urban centers and surrounding areas along the Mekong River in the central and southern regions of the country. The Catholic Church has an established presence in five of the most populous central and southern provinces, and Catholics are able to worship openly.
The Catholic Church's activities are more circumscribed in the north. There are four bishops, two located in Vientiane and others located in the cities of Thakhek and Pakse. One of the two bishops resident in Vientiane oversees the Vientiane Diocese and is responsible for the central part of the country. The second bishop resident in Vientiane is the Bishop of Luang Prabang. He is assigned to the northern part of the country, but while the Government did not permit him to take up his post, it did permit him to travel to visit church congregations in the north.
The church's property in Luang Prabang was seized after the 1975 Communist takeover, and there is no longer a parsonage in that city. An informal Catholic training center in Thakhek prepared a small number of priests to serve the Catholic community. Several foreign nuns temporarily serve in the Vientiane diocese.
- List of Saints from Asia
- List of Catholic dioceses (structured view) § Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia