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Apostolic Vicariate of Savannakhet

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Apostolic Vicariate of Savannakhet
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In a land area of 48,100 square kilometers the vicariate's territory covers two civil provinces: Khammouan and Savannakhet.


More than half of the people in the territory are lowland Lao. The rest are tribal ethnic minorities such as Khamu. Substantial numbers of ethnic Vietnamese and Chinese.


Mainly Lao, but also various ethnic minority dialects, Vietnamese.


Till the middle of the 13th century the Lao tribes who had migrated from Southern China accepted Buddhism of the Theravada School as their religion. During the following centuries, Buddhist monks (the Sangha) exercised a strong influence on Laotian society. In popular Buddhism the traditional belief in guardian spirits (phi) and the wide-spread rites of of ancestor veneration mingled with Buddhist beliefs. During the 18th and 19th century, the Kingdom of Laos repeatedly was attacked and dominated by its neighbour Vietnam, but even more by its other neighbouring country, Siam. In 1893 the French entered Laos and turned Laos into a French Protectorate and de facto colony of France. The Laotian kings lost more of their political power, but managed to retain many other privileges.

From 1630 onwards, Catholic missionaries made several attempts to enter the country and to preach the gospel in Laos. Most missionary endeavours, however, remained episodes, because they did not result in the founding of a local Church. The first missionaries were Jesuits who reached Laos from Tongking.

The evangelization efforts of the missionaries of the Paris Foreign Mission Society (M.E.P.), who came to Laos in 1878, were more successful. They succeeded in building up an indigenous Church in Laos. Traditionally, Dec. 8, 1885 is accepted to have been the date of the birth of the Catholic Church in Laos, because on this day the first mission station in the then Kingdom of Laos was founded on the island Ban Dorn Don in the river Mekong.

Since 1935, also Oblate Fathers (OMI) came to Laos and concentrated their missionary work mostly in the tribal areas in the mountains, in the north of the country.

Before, in 1899, the Apostolic Vicariate of Laos was founded, from which in 1950 the Apostolic Prefecture Thakhek was separated which later, in 1958, was raised to an Apostolic Vicariate. At that time, the number of Catholics in Laos had reached 23,764 Catholics. It took a long time, before in 1963 the first indigernous Laotian was ordained to the priesthood.

Thakhek signifies in the Laotian language "landing place of foreigners" and thus keeps the memory alive that the foreign Catholic missioners built there their first mission station, from which further missionary activities were started.

A decade later, in 1974, the first Laotian priest was consecrated as a bishop. Between 1952-1967, an ecclesiastical restructuring took place and the Catholic Church in Laos was divided into four Apostolic Vicariates: Vientiane (1952), Luang Prabang (1963), Savannakhet (1963) and Pakse (1967).


Road is primary means of transport. Road system is quite good. A bridge links Savannakhet town with the Thai town of Mukdahan across the Mekong. Another bridge linking Thakhek with the Thai town of Nakhon Phanom is under construction and set to open on Nov. 11, 2011.


Agriculture, mainly rice cultivation. Timber. A large hydro-power project in Khammouan province. The territory is an important trading crossroad between Thailand and Vietnam.


All media are owned by the communist government. There are several Lao-language newspapers, 1 in English and 1 in French. 3 local TV channels. Cable TV available.


Mainly forested plains, river valleys and mountains. To the west is the Mekong, the river border with Thailand. To the east is the Annamite mountain range that borders Vietnam.

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