The Missions Étrangères de Paris is a society of apostolic life whose goal is to evangelize Asia by founding the churches and by developing a local clergy under the jurisdiction of bishops.
The Society of Missions Étrangères de Paris owes its origin in the seventeenth century first and foremost to the desire of certain secular French clergy who wanted to take an active part in the missionary apostolate in distant countries and secondly to the papal wish to regain the leadership of the catholic mission granted to the kings of Portugal and Spain, during the great maritime explorations of the fifteenth century. This enthusiasm for the mission was stimulated by the arrival of a Jesuit, Alexandre de Rhodes, who advocated for the installation of bishops in Tonkin and Cochin China in order to promote a native clergy, who would be able to ensure the survival of Christian communities in these countries.
In 1653, Alexandre de Rhodes brought this message to France. His request of sending bishops to Asia was heard and welcomed with great success among the clergy of Paris.
Nomination of Apostolic vicars
In 1658, Pope Alexander VII appointed four Apostolic Vicars (an Apostolic Vicar is a titular bishop who administers a particular territory which is not organized as a diocese and who is directly under the Pope) : Mgr. François de Laval Montmorency was sent to Canada, where he would later on become the first bishop of Quebec. The other three went to Asia. Mgr. François Pallu was in charge of Tonkin (Tongkin), Mgr. Pierre Lambert de la Motte, in charge of Cochinchina and Mgr. Ignace Cotolendi became the one in charge of the southern provinces of China and of Tartary. They left for these provinces in 1660 and in 1661 respectively.
1 - Bishop Lambert de la Motte
2 - Bishop François Pallu
3 - Bishop Ignace Cotolendi
4 - Bishop François de Laval
Fundation of a Seminary
While continuing their missionary activities in Asia, the Apostolic Vicars also thought of recruiting staff for the Society of the Missions Étrangères de Paris. In 1663, they would receive the permission from abbot Saint-Germain to open a seminary in the Rue du Bac for the formation of missionaries and would get from King Louis XIV the patent letters granting the legal recognition of the seminary.
In 350 years, the Society of the Missions Étrangères de Paris contributed to the evangelization of many countries in the Far East, namely, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, India, Laos, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Burma. In the twentieth century, they sent priests and witnesses of faith, of which 23 are canonized. Even today, the Society of the Missions Étrangères de Paris continues its mission of announcing the Good News, by sending missionary priests to Asian countries for their whole life. At present, some twenty seminarians are preparing themselves for the same.