Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Edmond Pezet: A Priest among Buddhist Monks in Thailand

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Edmond Pezet: A Priest among Buddhist Monks in Thailand

Article excerpt

Far Eastern Edmond Pezet: A Priest among Buddhist Monks in Thailand. Letters and Writings Collected and Presented by Henri Huysegoms and Pierre Liesse. (Brussels: Société des Auxiliaires des Missions, 2012. Pp. 387. euro20,00 paperback. ISBN 978-2-9601236-1-6.)

It is likely that few in the United States have heard of the person whose letters and writings are collected in this volume, originally published in French as Edmond Pezet, un prêtre parmi les moines bouddhistes en Thaïlande (Brussels, 2012). Henri Huysegoms and Pierre Liesse have done a great service to the Church as a whole and to the cause of interreligious dialogue-especially dialogue with Buddhism- by selecting the main writings of Edmond Pezet, placing them in their historical contexts, and providing brief commentaries to aid us in understanding Pezet the man and his work.

For a man who later became a contemplative recluse, Pezet led a life that was nothing short of colorful. Born in 1923 in Larnagol, Lot, France, as the oldest of four children of Emile Louis Pezet and Marie Rosalie Chalou, Pezet studied for the priesthood at the seminary in Cahors (1942-45). World War II interrupted his studies in 1945 as he became a member of the French Far East Expeditionary Corps that served in Indochina. In 1946 he resumed his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood in 1949. He worked as a parish priest until 1955 when he joined Société des Auxiliaires des Missions (S.A.M.) with the goal of serving as a missionary. In December 1956 he was sent to the Diocese ofTha RaeNongsaeng in northeastern Thailand. Here began Pezef s long journey of spiritual transformation. He soon became disenchanted with the Church of Thailand's missionary method, which turned the Church into a rich and Latinized ghetto, and required the memorization of incomprehensible dogmatic formulas in catechetical instruction. But what distressed Pezet most was the Church's disdain for the Thai people's Buddhist tradition. Following the example of Jules Monchanin, a fellow S.A.M. and a missionary in India who advocated the adaptation of Hindu spirituality, Pezet set out "to bury himself in the nourishing soil of his people" and "to seek the providential ways from the Buddha to Christ" (p. …

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