Our Newly Beatified

The Martyrs of Laos

Laos presents to Christianity its “Witnesses of the Faith in the 20th century,” 17 men who died as martyrs between 1954 and 1970: a young Laotian priest, 5 priests of the Foreign Missions of Paris, 6 Oblates of Mary Immaculate—an Italian and 5 French, 5 Laotian laymen. Having been beatified in Vientiane on 11 December 2016, they will be celebrated in 2017: at Notre Dame of Paris on 5 February; in Trent (Italy) on 30 April; and at Belleville (Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, United States) on 17-18 June.

As in times past at Rome or Lyon, the Church was born in Laos from the blood of martyrs. In 2000, St. John Paul II called on Christians to honor the Witnesses of Faith in the 20th century. Responding to this call, Laos prese1-m-d-l-4nted to the judgment of Rome 17 men, Laotians and European missionaries. The story of their life and their death takes us into the turmoil of World History which, after the Second World War, saw nations of East and Southeast Asia fall into the hands of atheistic communism. These men heroically remained at their posts, faithful to the end to Jesus Christ, to Roman directives and to the ordinary people of God entrusted to their care. Between 1954 and 1970, they were killed “out of hatred for the faith.”

Joseph Tiên, the first martyr, had been a priest for 4 years. When ordered to get married so as to become a “normal citizen,” he made his choice without hesitation: “I obey the word of God on which I have sworn to remain faithful. I am ready to give my life for my Laotian brethren.” Thomas Khampheuane, who was just 16, was ready too. His school teacher states: “Fr. Lucien Galan asked me if there would be any volunteers to accompany him to see the catechumens, but none of the 30 students was willing to go: the danger was obvious. Then Thomas volunteered: he would not let Father go alone into that danger.” As for Jean Wauthier, while returning from a missionary journey to a distant village, he died standing, his bag on his back, a rosary in his hand, after having found protection for his young companions…

These 17 admirable men, who identified with Christ in life and in death, form with Him the foundation on which is built the Church of Laos. On 11 December 2016, this young Church celebrated their beatification—a completely novel event for the country. France in turn will celebrate on Sunday, 5 February 2017, at Notre Dame in Paris, since 10 of her sons have shed their blood for the Gospel, along with the Laotians…

Fr. Roland Jacques omi