History of Asian Missions

A bimonthly missionary letter to foster prayers for Asia
No. 10


I - History of the Asian Missions - Catholicism in Cambodia-Part I

For the Missions of Asia: One Million Hail Marys Daily  


I – History of the Asian Mission

Catholicism in Cambodia – Part I

The first European contacts with Cambodia can be traced back to 1511 A.D..  By 1527 A.D., it appeared on Portuguese naval maps under the name of “Cambuxa”.  The Catholic traders, as it happened in so many other countries, were the first to reveal to the natives the existence of the Catholic religion.  Subsequent to their conversations with King Ang Chan, the latter requested some priests.  The very first one to arrive at the royal court of Longvek in 1555 A.D. was a Dominican, Fr. Gaspar de Cruz.  He had been formed at the school of Fr. Dominique de Souza, a friend a confidant of Albuquerque, (then the viceroy of Portuguese India), and, since he came to Cambodia from malacca, most likely would have met St. Frncis Xavier, who had left Malacca at about the same time (1548 A.D.) for Japan.

Fr. Gaspar only spent one year in Cambodia.  He was followed by many others, mostly Dominicans and Franciscans, who were subjected to the various moods of the subsequent kings: sometimes the missionaries were given freedom or tolerated, sometimes after campaigns of defamation, they were put into jail.

At the beginning of the XVIIth century, in spite of the numerous missionary efforts, often tied to the Portuguese and Spanish powers, only a tiny Catholic community remained in Cambodia, mostly composed of Portuguese living near the royal court of Longvek.  The evangelization of the Khmer people itself had practically not started.

In the early 1600’s, the Vietnamese began to immigrate into Cambodia; first secretly then commercially.  Many of these pioneers were in fact farming soldiers.  What resulted from their presence was that the fate of Cambodia became unfortunately very obvious:  it was caught between two powers in full expansion, Vietnam and Siam (now , Thailand).  When a Cambodain King died, usually a brotherly war erupted with the disputed succession; one brother appealing to the Siamese armies for help, the other to the Vietnamese (or Annamites) troops.

Simultaneously, Holland was mooring its commercial fleet in the Cambodian harbours, trying at the same time to disqualify the Catholic Portuguese traders.

It was in that regional and international context that many foreign groups of Catholics sought refuge on the Cambodian territory.  These groups comprised about 300 Japanese who had escapedin the 1630’s from the bloody persecution raging in Japan, a persecution that made many martyrs (see For the Missions of Asia, No.2).  Another group was that of the 400 Portuguese who in the 1660’s had fled from the Dutch Calvinists at work in Indonesia.  It was this group of Portuguese whose descendants would form the core of the Catholic community of Cambodia, even to this day.  Of course, with the persecution showing its bloody teeth in the neighboring country of Vietnam, many of the Catholic Vietnamese found refuge in Cambodia. 

For the Missions of Asia: One Million Hail Marys Daily

    As An act of faith in the all powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces, and as a token of missionary charity towards the very great number of souls in Asia, 

    I wish to pledge ____ decades of the Rosary everyday  "For the Missions of Asia"

    I understand that I need not necessarily add extra prayers but that simply need to add that intention "For the Missions of Asia" to my usual daily prayers. 
Name: _____________________________________________ 
Send this form (or a copy) toFather Superior, Our Lady of Victories, 2 Canon Road, New Manila, Quezon City 1112, Philippines. 
The progress of this ongoing spiritual bouquet will be related in the future issues of the Missionary Letter.  As of May 1, 1998, around 250,000 Hail Marys are being said daily for this intention.  This letter will be sent free of charge to all those who pledge to pray "For the Missions of Asia".  (Those who attend Asian Mass centers can get their copy at their Mass center.)



Home | Newsletters | Library | Vocations | History | Links | Search | Contact