08/16/2010, 00.00
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Over 55,000 Vietnamese at feast of Our Lady of La Vang, waiting for the Pope

by J. B. Vu
Also present were some bishops and 120 priests from various dioceses in Vietnam. At the conclusion of the Jubilee, January 6 next year, millions of pilgrims are expected from the country and abroad.

Hue (AsiaNews) - At least 55 thousand faithful arrived in the diocese of Hue over  the last three days to attend the celebrations of Our Lady of La Vang, the national shrine. Many Catholics are hoping that at the close this year, which will take place January 6, 2011 at La Vang, the pope will come to Vietnam.

Yesterday, along with 55,000 faithful attended the Mass for the Assumption together with some bishops and 120 priests from different dioceses.

The shrine of La Vang dates back to the eighteenth century. During the great persecution of the King Vietnamese against the Catholic Church (1798-1801),

thousands of Christians were killed for their faith. Several of them fled into the jungle to La Vang, then a small village in Quang Tri province. There Mary appeared to comfort them. Since then, what was once a small village became home to the sanctuary of Our Lady of La Vang, visited by millions of people, whether Catholic or not.

On 24 November 2009 the bishops launched the Jubilee Year of the Church of Vietnam, marking the 350th anniversary of its birth and 50 years of the institution of the Catholic hierarchy. It will end its January 6, 2011 in La Vang.

After many decades of destruction and decay, the government has finally given permission to restore the sanctuary, returning the land taken from the Church in the past. Work will begin immediately after Jan. 6, 2010.

By that date millions of pilgrims are expected to have arrived from abroad. Many also hope for a visit by Benedict XVI.

In 1999 John Paul II had hoped to visit La Vang, but the government in the end cancelled any possibility.

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