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Church in Laos

Capital : Vientiane
Population : 7 million
Catholics : 45,015 (0.7 %)
Jurisdictions : Four Apostolic Vicariates
Parishes : 123
Major Religions : Buddhism 64.7%, Tai folk religion 31.4%, Christianity 1.7%, Islam 0.8%, Other 1.3%
From 1630 onwards, Catholic missionaries made several attempts to enter the Laotian territory and preach the Gospel. However, they could not establish a local Church. The first missionaries were the Jesuits who reached in Laos from Tongking (Vitenam).

The evangelization efforts of the missionaries of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), who came to Laos in 1878, were more successful. They set up an indigenous Church in Laos. They founded their first mission station on Dec. 8, 1885, which is traditionally accepted as the foundation day of the Catholic Church in Laos. This mission station was established on Ban Dorn Don, an island in the Mekong River. The Apostolic Vicariate of Laos was founded in 1899.

The Oblate Fathers (OMI) arrived in 1935 and concentrated their missionary works mostly in the mountainous tribal areas in the north of the country.

There are approximately 45,000 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 oversees the Vientiane diocese and is responsible for the central part of the country. The second bishop in Vientiane is the bishop of Luang Prabang. He is assigned to the northern part of the country. Though the government did not permit him to take up his post, it did permit him to travel to visit the Church congregations in the north.

The Church's property in Luang Prabang was seized after 1975, 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.

There are no dioceses in the country, but it is divided into four Apostolic Vicariates.
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