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Modern-day Catholic missionaries in Thailand

The first Catholic missionaries in their white habits with black cappa and leather belts first arrived in Thailand in 1567. Two Dominican priests – Hieronymus of the Cross and Sebastian de Cantù – established three parishes at the Kingdom of Ayutthaya with about fifteen hundred converted Siamese in just two years before they were murdered in 1569. 

Nearly 500 years later, the Catholic Church remains a minority in Thailand with 388,468 members – a figure that represents about 0.58 percent of the Thai population of 69 million. However, Catholic missionary work has been continuously growing and expanding over the years.

On June 30, the Vatican honored one of Thailand’s modern-day Catholic missionaries for his “outstanding service and unwavering dedication” to the Catholic Church, the country, and the wider community.

Dr. Somsak Leeswadtrakul, an industrialist and a prominent philanthropist, received the honor of Knights Grand Cross, the highest rank within the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great. It is one of the most prestigious awards the Catholic Church can bestow upon the laity.

Dr. Leeswadtrakul and other Catholic laypeople in Thailand, who followed the footsteps of the first missionaries, are examples of Christians “living in harmony with Christ’s discipleship by living as an eyewitness amid the world’s challenges with faith and courage,” according to the Camillian Sisters.  ‘


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