1626  — 1684

Francois Pallu

Cofounder of the Missions Etrangeres de Paris (Paris Foreign Mission Society) and mission administrator in China and Southeast Asia.

A native of Tours, France, Pallu was ordained a priest in 1650. A few years later he met the Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes in Paris. Rhodes had left Vietnam and was on his way to Rome to ask that native bishops be appointed for East Asia. Pallu, who supported this move, was named vicar apostolic of Heliopolis in June 1658, consecrated a bishop in November 1658, and given the position of administrator of Laos and southwestern China in September 1659. Before departing for Asia, Pallu and two other bishops founded the PFMS, which was approved by the bishop of Paris in 1663 and by Pope Alexander VII in 1664.

Pallu reached Siam (Thailand) later in 1664, but lacking status among the civil and religious authorities, he returned to Rome for consultation and to obtain additional ecclesial prerogatives. He arrived back in Siam in 1670 and three years later had an audience with the Siamese monarch, who granted permission to preach in the kingdom. Four years later he embarked for China. Caught in a storm off the coast of the Philippines, Pallu was arrested by the Spanish, taken to Manila, and deported to Europe via Mexico. Freed through the intervention of Louis XIV, Pallu went to Rome and obtained the nominations of new vicars apostolic. In 1680 he was named apostolic administrator of all the missions in China. He arrived there in January 1684, but died in Moyang, Fukien (Fujian) Province, later that year.

Pallu and the PFMS worked with Propaganda Fide in Rome as the latter sought to administer control of all the missions of the church. Lisbon opposed such measures, including Pallu’s efforts in East Asia, on the grounds that the church had granted the Portuguese crown the rights and duties as sole patron of the Catholic missions in Africa, Asia, and Brazil. With sound judgment and administrative skills, Pallu was a driving force in promoting the developnient of a native clergy and hierarchy in Asia.


This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.


  • Francois Pallu, Lettres, A. Launay, ed., 2 vols. (1905). L. Baudiment, Francois Pallu (1934); M. Pallu, Essais biographiques sur Francois Pallu (1863).

About the Author

John W. Witek

Associate Professor of East Asian History, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., USA