and Nguyen lords permitted the missionaries to preach, or expelled them, depending on their usefulness in obtaining weapons and commercial exchange from their native countries. The Jesuits (notably Alexandre de Rhodes) were the first to begin, with the support of Portugal under the padroado system, a sustained mission in the south in 1615 and in the north in 1627.1 Their work was later strengthened by the missionaries sent by the Propaganda Fide (founded in 1622), mostly members of the Societe des Missions Etrangeres de Paris (founded in 1664; henceforth, MEP). In 1659, two dioceses were established, called Dang Ngoai [the Exterior Part] or Bac Ha [the North] and Dang Trong [the Interior Part] or Nam Ha [the South]. Francois Pallu and Pierre Lambert de la Motte were appointed as apostolic vicars for the exterior and the interior dioceses respectively. According to de Rhodes's report to the Propaganda Fide in 1650, there were 300,000 Christians in Vietnam, with an average annual increase of 15,000. The converts came from a variety of religious backgrounds. Their leaders had been Confucian literati and Buddhist monks, whereas the masses had practised a mixture of Taoism and indigenous Vietnamese religion. For all of them the cult of ancestors had been central.

Since the north and the south were mutually hostile, to avoid charges of spying for the enemy, missionaries carried out their work in the two parts of the country in almost total separation from each other. In 1679, the exterior diocese was split into two, one called the Western diocese and the other the Eastern diocese. In 1757, the Eastern diocese was assigned to the Dominican province of the Most Holy Rosary of the Philippines.

In 1777, three brothers, known as the Tay Son (after the locality where they started the rebellion) succeeded in crushing the Trinh clan in the north and dismantling the Nguyen clan in the south. One of the Nguyen descendants, Nguyen Anh, then seventeen years old, survived. Later, in 1784, again defeated by the Tay Son, Nguyen Anh escaped to Thailand, where he met the French bishop Pigneau de Behaine (1742-99), who was also taking refuge there from the war. It was a fateful meeting. Through the military help of de Behaine, Nguyen Anh regained his political power, eventually unifying Vietnam and establishing his own dynasty. But the bishop's appeal to his native country for arms opened the door for French colonisation.

The church under Gia Long (1802-20)

The church, in both the north and the south, had suffered sporadic persecutions before the Nguyen dynasty. In the north, the first Catholic to be killed for his

1 On the work oftheJesuits, especially Alexandre de Rhodes, see Phan, Mission and catechesis.

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