ASIA/LAOS - New hope for Laotian Catholics in the north; new church opened and Catholics await pastoral presence and care of Rev. Banchong Thopahong apostolic administrator

Thursday, 14 April 2005

Luang Prabang (Fides Service) - There is fresh life and fervour among Catholics in the Vicariate of Luang Prabang where on 11 March a new church the first since 1975 and the communist revolution was blessed and inaugurated.
According to the Omiworld web site of the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate on mission for years in Laos, the little church, 11 metres by 8, is situated in Ban Pong Vang village where 86 of the 200 families are Catholics. The church can seat 150 people. Reverend Tito Banchong Thopahong, aged 56, Apostolic Administrator of the Vicariate of Luang Prabang says he is very happy for the new church and thanks God for inspiring the government authorities to grant building permission. The local Catholics are overjoyed. Rev. Banchong Thopahong is the only Catholic priest in this area. Not having permission to reside in the Vicariate he lives in the capital Vientiane about 180 km away where there is a Catholic community of about 3,500 who kept the faith despite thirty years of hardship and rare presence of a priest.
Rev. Banchong Thopahong hopes to be able to move to Luang Prabang before long so he can care for the People of God entrusted to him. In fact after allowing the building of the church the authorities have given permission for a priest’s house to be built and it should be ready by December this year.
On the occasion of Easter this year Rev. Banchong Thopahong was able to visit the Catholic community in the north of Laos and he was greatly edified by their faith and devotion. He is now anxious to give them all the pastoral care they need, especially formation in the faith.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 14/4/2005 10 righe 25 parole 267)