Catholic Church in Cambodia
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International distribution (2010).
The first known Christian mission in Cambodia was undertaken by Gaspar da Cruz, a Portuguese member of the Dominican Order, in 1555–1556. According to his own account, the enterprise was a complete failure; he found the country run by a "Bramene" king and "Bramene" officials, and discovered that "the Bramenes are the most difficult people to convert". He felt that no one would dare to convert without the King's permission, and left the country in disappointment, not having "baptized more than one gentile whom I left in the grave".
Despite the French colonization in the 19th century, Christianity made little impact in the country. In 1972 there were probably about 20,000 Christians in Cambodia, most of whom were Roman Catholics. Before the repatriation of the Vietnamese in 1970 and 1971, possibly as many as 62,000 Christians lived in Cambodia. According to Vatican statistics, in 1953, members of the Roman Catholic Church in Cambodia numbered 120,000, making it at the time, the second largest religion, estimates indicate that about 50,000 Catholics were Vietnamese. Many of the Catholics remaining in Cambodia in 1972 were Europeans-chiefly French; and still, among Catholic Cambodians are whites and Eurasians of French descent.
There are around 20,000 Catholics in Cambodia which represents only 0.15% of the total population. There are no dioceses, but there are three territorial jurisdictions – one Apostolic Vicariate and two Apostolic Prefectures.
- Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh
- Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang
- Apostolic Prefecture of Kompong Cham
- Boxer, Charles Ralph; Pereira, Galeote; Cruz, Gaspar da; Rada, Martín de (1953), South China in the sixteenth century: being the narratives of Galeote Pereira, Fr. Gaspar da Cruz, O.P. (and) Fr. Martín de Rada, O.E.S.A. (1550–1575), Issue 106 of Works issued by the Hakluyt Society, Printed for the Hakluyt Society, pp. lix,59–63