The Congregation has its origin in the successful mission to the common people conducted by Saint Vincent de Paul and five other priests on the estates of the Gondi family. More immediately it dates from 1624, when the little community acquired a permanent settlement in the Coll�ge des Bons Enfants in Paris. Archiepiscopal recognition was obtained in 1626. By a papal bull in January 1632, the society was constituted a congregation, with St Vincent de Paul at its head. About the same time the canons regular of St Victor handed over to the congregation the priory of St Lazarus (formerly a lazar-house) in Paris, whence the name of Lazarites or Lazarists.
Within a few years they had acquired another house in Paris and set up other establishments throughout France; missions were also sent to Italy (1638), Tunis (1643), Algiers and Ireland (1646), Madagascar (1648) and Poland (1651). A fresh bull of Alexander VII in April 1655 further confirmed the society; this was followed by a brief in September of the same year, regulating its constitution. The rules then adopted, which were framed on the model of those of the Jesuits, were published at Paris in 1668 under the title Regulae seu constitutiones communes congregationis missionis. The special objects contemplated were the religious instruction of the lower classes, the training of the clergy and foreign missions.
During the French Revolution the congregation was suppressed and St Lazare plundered by the mob; it was restored by Napoleon in 1804 at the desire of Pius VII, abolished by him in 1809 in consequence of a quarrel with the pope, and again restored in 1816. The Lazarites were expelled from Italy in 1871 and from Germany in 1873.
The Lazarite province of Poland was singularly prosperous; at the date of its suppression in 1796 it possessed thirty-five establishments. The order was permitted to return in 1816, but is now extinct there. In Madagascar it had a mission from 1648 till 1674. In 1783 Lazarites were appointed to take the place of the Jesuits in the Levantine and Chinese missions; they still have some footing in China, and in 1874 their establishments throughout the Ottoman Empire numbered sixteen. In addition, they established branches in Persia, Abyssinia, Mexico, the South American republics, Portugal, Spain and Russia, some of which have been suppressed. In the same year they had fourteen establishments in the United States of America.
In the early twenty-first century the Lazarites numbered some 4000 worldwide, with a presence in 86 different countries.
Members of the congregation include:
- P. Collet (1693-1770), writer on theology and ethics
- J. de la Grive (1689-1757), geographer
- E. Bore (d. 1878), orientalist
- P. Bertholon (1689-1757), physician
- [[�variste R�gis Huc]] (1813-1860), missionary and traveller
- Armand David (1826-1900), Chinese missionary and traveller.
- Congregation of the Mission official site
Initial text from a 1911 encyclopedia. Please update as needed.