Thakhek (AsiaNews) - Thousands of Catholics, maybe 10 thousand, many of them coming from neighbouring countries, took part in a very rare event for Laos, the ordination of a new bishop. The rite in which Mgr. Jean Marie Inthirath Prida, 53, assumed responsibility for the Apostolic Vicariate of Savannakhet, took place April 10 in St. Louis Cathedral (pictured) Thakhek, on the banks of the Mekong, in the central part of the country, the largest gathering of Catholics in the country's history.
The Catholic Church Laos, in fact, has about 43 thousand faithful out of a population of more than six million people, overwhelmingly Buddhist. It is a community that has only four bishops and 16 priests, counting the two who are well beyond the age of "retirement", but one that is still very much kept under the watch by the authorities, even after the end of the harsh of communist Patet Lao period and the nation’s timid opening to economic and social renewal.
An extraordinary crowd, then, for an ordination ceremony that was attended by prelates who came from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines and France and chaired by Mgr. Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, president of the Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia. Cardinal Pham Minh Man came from Vietnam, to witness the relationship that has united Catholics of the two countries for centuries. The testimony of the friendship of so many Catholic countries was underlined by the same Mgr. Inthirath Prida, who thanked all the "Mother Church" for never having forgotten the Laotian Catholics.
For his part Mgr. Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic delegate in Laos, stressed the relationship that must exist between bishops and priests, "based primarily on charity," and reminded the faithful that they all "have a great responsibility to share the task of witnessing love for others and the Gospel message of salvation".