11/26/2013, 00.00
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Thousands of Catholics celebrate centenary of Lang Son and Cao Bang Diocese

by J.B. Vu
At least 3,500 faithful attended Mass on Nov. 21, presided over by the papal representative Archbishop Girelli . He urges the community to "keep their values alive " and to renew "missionary work". An invitation echoed by the bishop, who invites believers to look to the future " with joy and conviction ."

Hanoi ( AsiaNews) - Thousands of Catholics are celebrating the centenary of the Diocese of Lang Son and Cao Bang this month, both located in the homonymous provinces in northern Vietnam , and incorporating the eastern part of the province of Ha Giang . On 21 November a solemn celebration was held to mark their foundation on December 30, 1913 by the Holy See , from the Apostolic Prefecture of Lang Son , which already included a large part of the territory. Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, the non-resident pontifical representative, presided over Mass together with the local bishop, Msgr . Joseph Jang Duc Ngan and hundreds of priests.

The dioceses' jubilee is part of the celebrations of the local Catholic community for the month of November, dedicated to the souls of the dead. In all the dioceses and parishes of the country moments of prayer and devotion for the dead are organized, including a Mass for the Vietnamese martyrs and in preparation for the Advent season .

In Lang Son - Cao Bang, Catholics number little more than 6 thousand, out of a total of about 1,153,000 inhabitants.  The diocese covers about 15 thousand km2 and the vast majority of the population live off agriculture. On November 21, 3,500 people - more than half of the total Catholic population - gathered in the cathedral, to take part in the function. Some members of ethnic groups traveled up to 450 km, from every corner of the diocese and on board "primordial " means like wagons, to be present and witness to their faith .

Addressing the faithful during the homily, Msgr. Girelli said that "we are gathered here as a sign of the communion of the Church." He urged the community to "keep the values" passed down by their ancestors alive, renewing "the missionary task" for an ever "greater" harvest.

The diocese is located in a mountainous area populated by ethnic groups such as the Kinh ( 12 thousand members ), a small representation of Chin ( 6 thousand ) , Tay and Nung 270 thousand , Hmong 15 thousand, for a total of 300 thousand people . The Bishop. Joseph Jang Duc Ngan has renewed the missionary commitment of the entire community . "In this journey 100 years long - said the prelate - we have received many blessings from God. May this journey continue to be a source of joy and hope in the sacred bond of mission [looking forward] with greater joy and conviction."



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