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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 kilometres, the vicariate's territory covers two civil provinces: Khammouan and Savannakhet.

Population

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 also stay.

Language

Mainly Lao, but also various ethnic minority dialects and Vietnamese are in use.

History

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. During the 18th and 19th centuries, 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 the 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.

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 Laotian was ordained to the priesthood.

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

Transportation

Road is primary means of transport. A bridge links Savannakhet town with the Thai town of Mukdahan across the Mekong river. Another bridge links Thakhek with the Thai town of Nakhon Phanom.

Economy

Agriculture, mainly rice cultivation is the major occupation. Timber industry is active. The territory is an important trading point between Thailand and Vietnam.

Telecommunication

All media are owned by the communist government.

Topography

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

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