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Former Paris Foreign Missions Society chief dies at 89

Father Jean-Baptiste Etcharren dies in Vietnam where he began his missionary life six decades ago

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: September 22, 2021 06:31 AM GMT

Updated: September 22, 2021 07:16 AM GMT

Former Paris Foreign Missions Society chief dies at 89

Father Jean-Baptiste Etcharren (center), former superior general of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, is seen during a thanksgiving Mass at Notre-Dame de Paris on the MEP's 350th anniversary on June 8, 2008. (Photo: MEP)

Father Jean-Baptiste Etcharren, former superior general of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), died on Sept. 21 in Vietnam at the age of 89.

He breathed his last in the Southeast Asian country where he started his missionary life six decades ago.

A native of the Diocese of Bayonne in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region in southwest France, he led the MEP as superior general from July 1998 to July 2010.

He was born on April 15, 1932, in Irouléguy in the French Basque country. His parents, Dominic and Marianne Etcharren, were farmers. He was the third of their five children.

Etcharren entered the MEP seminary in Paris in 1950 and was ordained a priest on Feb. 2, 1958. He moved to Hué, Vietnam, on April 22, 1958, on his first mission assignment.

From May 1958 to June 1959, Father Etcharren learned Vietnamese in Banam, Cambodia. He then served as curator in the parish of Our Lady of Lavang.

In France, Father Etcharren was assigned to national service for the pastoral care of migrants from Asia from 1976 to 1983

From 1961 to 1966, he was a professor in Hue, first at the Providence College and then at the minor seminary of the Archdiocese of Hue. He was the parish priest of Dong Ha from 1966 to 1972.

During the Vietnam War, Father Etcharren rendered vital support to refugees. In 1972, he accompanied refugees from his area to the Hoa Kanh camp near Danang. In 1973, he worked for the resettlement of refugees from Bing Tuy region.

By the end of 1974, he was elected the MEP's regional superior. In September 1975, following the communist takeover, he was forced to leave Vietnam for France.

In France, Father Etcharren was assigned to national service for the pastoral care of migrants from Asia from 1976 to 1983.

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For the next three years, he was the parish priest of Maison-Alfort and Vietnamese chaplain in the Diocese of Créteil.

He was elected a member of the MEP permanent council during its assembly in 1986. He became vicar general of the MEP in 1992 and in the following year he welcomed the first Vietnamese student priests.

Father Etcharren was elected superior general in 1998 and was re-elected in 2004.  

As his term ended in 2010, he returned to Vietnam at the invitation of the archbishop of Hue. He spent his retired life in Hue and died at the major seminary of Hue on Sept. 21.

Father Etcharren is due to be buried in the seminary's cemetery following a funeral Mass at the seminary's chapel on Sept. 22.

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