Martyrs of Laos

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Martyrs of Laos
Born Italy, France and Laos
Died1954–1970, Laos
Martyred by Pathet Lao
Venerated in Catholic Church
Beatified 11 December 2016, Vientiene, Laos, by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo
Feast 16 December
  • Palm
  • Priest's attire
  • Persecuted Christians
  • Missionaries
Notable martyrs
  • Mario Borzaga
  • Joseph Thąo Tiěn

The Blessed Martyrs of Laos are seventeen Catholic priests and professed religious as well as one lay young man venerated as martyrs killed in Laos between 1954 and 1970 during a period of anti-religious sentiment under the Pathet Lao communist political movement. [1] [2]

Beatification recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person

Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name. Beati is the plural form, referring to those who have undergone the process of beatification.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

A religious brother is a member of a Christian religious institute or religious order who commits himself to following Christ in consecrated life of the Church, usually by the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He is a layman, in the sense of not being ordained as a deacon or priest, and usually lives in a religious community and works in a ministry appropriate to his capabilities. A brother might practice any secular occupation. The term "brother" is used as he is expected to be as a brother to others. Brothers are members of a variety of religious communities, which may be contemplative, monastic, or apostolic in character. Some religious institutes are composed only of brothers; others are so-called "mixed" communities that are made up of brothers and clerics.


The cause for their canonization was opened as two parallel processes with one for Mario Borzaga – an Italian Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate – and his companion Paul Thoj Xyooj – a Laotian catechist – and another for a group of fifteen martyrs that included ten French missionaries as well as five Laotian Catholics. [2] The Borzaga cause commenced under Pope Benedict XVI on 22 December 2006 and the Tiěn cause commenced on 18 January 2008 in a move that accorded both sets of martyrs the title of Servant of God. Pope Francis approved both beatifications in 2015 and their beatification took place in Vientiane Cathedral on 11 December 2016 in which Cardinal Orlando Quevedo presided on the pope's behalf. [1]

The Lao people or Laotians are a Tai ethnic group native to Southeast Asia, who speak the eponymous language of the Tai–Kadai group, originating from present-day southern China. They are the majority ethnic group of Laos, making up 53.2% of the total population. The majority of Lao people adhere to Theravada Buddhism. They are closely related to other Tai peoples, especially with the Isan people, who are also speakers of Lao language, but native to neighboring Thailand.

Catechism religious exposition

A catechism is a summary or exposition of doctrine and serves as a learning introduction to the Sacraments traditionally used in catechesis, or Christian religious teaching of children and adult converts. Catechisms are doctrinal manuals – often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorised – a format that has been used in non-religious or secular contexts as well. The term catechumen refers to the designated recipient of the catechetical work or instruction. In the Catholic Church, catechumens are those who are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. Traditionally, they would be placed separately during Holy Mass from those who had been baptized, and would be dismissed from the liturgical assembly before the Profession of Faith (Creed) and General Intercessions.

The French are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.


Mario Borzaga and Thoj Xyooj Paj Lug


Mario Borzaga was born on 27 August 1932 in Trent as the third of four children. [3] He was ordained to the priesthood on 24 February 1957 (he entered the seminary in 1943) and became a professed member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1952. Borzaga decided to join the missions in Laos that his order was overseeing and so left Naples with the first Italian team to Laos where he learnt about the language and the local culture in order to assimilate into the communities. In 1958 he operated in small villages before moving into the northern regions around the apostolic vicariate of Luang Prabang where he began teaching catechism and later met the layman Thoj Xyooj Paj Lug. [3] [4]

Trento Comune in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Italy

Trento is a city on the Adige River in Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol in Italy. It is the capital of the autonomous province of Trento. In the 16th century, the city was the location of the Council of Trent. Formerly part of Austria and Austria-Hungary, it was annexed by Italy in 1919. With almost 120,000 inhabitants, Trento is the third largest city in the Alps and second largest in the Tyrol.

Seminary, school of theology, theological seminary, and divinity school are educational institutions for educating students in scripture, theology, generally to prepare them for ordination to serve as clergy, in academics, or in Christian ministry. The English word is taken from the Latin seminarium, translated as seed-bed, an image taken from the Council of Trent document Cum adolescentium aetas which called for the first modern seminaries. In the West, the term now refers to Catholic educational institutes and has widened to include other Christian denominations and American Jewish institutions.

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is a missionary religious congregation in the Catholic Church. It was founded on January 25, 1816, by Saint Eugène de Mazenod, a French priest born in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France on August 1, 1782. The congregation was given recognition by Pope Leo XII on February 17, 1826. The congregation is composed of priests and brothers usually living in community. Their traditional salutation is Laudetur Iesus Christus, to which the response is Et Maria Immaculata. In 2011, the congregation had approximately 4,400 members, including 580 in formation. In 2016, there were 3,924 members.

On 25 April 1960 he and Lug – at the request of some of the villagers of Pha Xoua – began a three-day walk near the border of China and along the path lost their tracks but were later ambushed and killed by guerillas of the Pathet Lao. He was killed on 25 April 1960 in the town of Kiukatiam in Luang Prabang in Laos. [4] It was said that Borzaga was allowed to go because he was a foreign priest but he responded to his attackers: "If you kill him, you kill me. If he dies, I will die". His remains were thrown into a pit with his companion and never identified with precision.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

Pathet Lao communist political movement and organization in Laos

The Pathet Lao was a communist political movement and organization in Laos, formed in the mid-20th century. The group was ultimately successful in assuming political power in 1975, after the Laotian Civil War. The Pathet Lao were always closely associated with Vietnamese communists. During the civil war, it was effectively organized, equipped and even led by the People's Army of Vietnam. They fought against the anti-communist forces in the Vietnam War. Eventually, the term became the generic name for Laotian communists.

Laos Socialist state in southeast Asia

Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, commonly referred to by its colloquial name of Muang Lao, is a socialist state and the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia. Located at the heart of the Indochinese peninsula, Laos is bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the southwest, and Thailand to the west and southwest.

He wrote a diary of his experiences and was later published as "To Be a Happy Man".


Thoj Xyooj Paj Lug was born in 1941 in Kiukatiam and was a lifelong layman and catechist from the apostolic vicariate of Luang Prabang. [5]

He was killed on 25 April 1960 in his hometown and his remains crudely thrown into a pit alongside his priestly companion. [5]

Joseph Thąo Tiěn and 14 companions

The fifteen martyrs are a group of French priests and religious from the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate; there were also four lay Laotian catechists in this group and all were killed between 1954 and 1970 under the communist movement known as Pathet Lao. [6]

During the Easter season of 1953, guerillas stormed Sam Neua and many missionaries retreated in order to remain safe while Joseph Thąo Tiěn remained behind – ordained in 1949 – and said: "I am staying for my people. I am ready to lay down my life for my Laotian brothers and sisters". He was then marched to the prison camp at Talang and told weeping people along the way: "Do not be sad, I'll come back. I am going to study ... Make sure that your village keeps improving". The priest was sentenced to death and killed a year later and refused to give up the priesthood and marry as his captors ordered him to do. [7]

On the other side of Laos the priest John Baptist Malo – who served in China – was detained with four companions and died of exhaustion in 1954 en route to a prison camp. Other French priests and religious were killed and others died in captivity. [7]


Fr. Vincent l'Henoret O.M.I. Vincent LHenoret omi.jpg
Fr. Vincent l'Hénoret O.M.I.

Below are the names of the fifteen martyrs: [6]

  • Jean-Baptiste Malo (2 June 1889 – 28 March 1954) – priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris
  • Joseph Thąo Tiěn (5 December 1918 – 2 June 1954) – priest
  • René Dubroux (28 November 1914 – 19 December 1959) – priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris
  • Louis Leroy (8 October 1923 – 18 April 1961) – priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • Michel Coquelet (18 August 1931 – 20 April 1961) – priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • Vincent l'Hénoret (12 March 1921 – 11 May 1961) – priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • Noël Tenaud (11 November 1904 – 27 April 1961) – priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris
  • Joseph Outhay Phongphumi (1933 – 27 April 1961) – layman and catechist
  • Marcel Denis (8 July 1919 – 31 July 1961) – priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris
  • Jean Wauthier (22 March 1926 – 16 December 1967) – priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • Lucien Galan (9 December 1921 – 12 May 1968) – priest of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris
  • Thomas Khampheuane Inthirath (May 1952 – 12 May 1968) – layman
  • Joseph Boissel (20 December 1909 – 5 July 1969) – priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
  • Luc Sy (1938 – 7 March 1970) – layman and catechist
  • Maisam Pho Inpèng (1934 – 7 March 1970) – married layman


The beatification process for Borzaga and Lug commenced in Trent after the forum for the process was transferred from Luang Prabang on 30 September 2005 to Trent. The two were then titled as a Servant of God on 22 December 2006 under Pope Benedict XVI after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued the official "nihil obstat" and allowed the process to take place. The diocesan process spanned from 7 October 2006 to 17 October 2008 and the C.C.S. later validated the process on 19 June 2009 in a move that allowed for the postulation to send the Positio to the C.C.S. in 2014. Theologians approved the cause on 27 November 2014 while the C.C.S. also voted in approval on 5 May 2015. Pope Francis approved the beatification that very same day and confirmed the two were martyrs.

The second cause commenced in Nantes and the transfer of the forum came from Savannakhet and other Laotian cities on 6 September 2007. The official "nihil obstat" came on 18 January 2008 and allowed for the inauguration of the diocesan process which started on 10 June 2008 and concluded its business on 28 February 2010; the cause was validated on 15 October 2011. The postulation sent the Positio to the C.C.S. in 2014 and theologians voiced their approval to the cause on 27 November 2014 while the C.C.S. also voted in favor on 2 June 2015. Pope Francis confirmed the group were martyrs on 5 June 2015 and approved their beatification.

The beatification was celebrated in Vientiane Cathedral on 11 December 2016 in which Cardinal Orlando Quevedo presided on the pope's behalf. [8]

The current postulator for both these causes is the Rev. Thomas Kosterkamp.

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  1. 1 2 "The martyrs of Laos, part 2" . Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  2. 1 2 "Group of Laotians soon to be recognized as martyrs" . Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Blessed Mario Borzaga". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  4. 1 2 "Venerable Mario Borzaga". Saints SQPN. 14 June 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  5. 1 2 "Venerable Paul Thoj Xyooj". Saints SQPN. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Blessed Martyrs of Laos". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Martyrs of Laos". OMI Postulation. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  8. Missions étrangères de Paris, La béatification de dix-sept martyrs du Laos célébrée à Vientiane augure d'un avenir renouvelé pour l'Église locale, 12 décembre 2016