03/22/2010, 00.00
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First steps to rebuild the shrine of La Vang

by J.B. VU
Architects and firms have draft plans for what will be the National Centre for Marian pilgrimages, with the largest church in the country. Built in 1798, the sanctuary was destroyed and rebuilt several times, sharing the fate of Vietnamese Catholics, who go there every year by the hundreds of thousands.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The National Marian Shrine of La Vang will be the largest church in Vietnam – capable of accommodating 5 thousand faithful - and "will not only be a work of modern and beautiful architecture, but also the expression of the architecture and culture of our country".   This is the declaration given to AsiaNews, by the Secretary of the Committee for the Sacred Art of the Vietnamese bishops' conference, Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, provincial superior of the Redemptorists.  

Built in 1798, the goal for centuries of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, the shrine was destroyed several times, most recently in 1972, during the war. Next year construction will begin of what will become a national centre for pilgrimages and already on March 8 architects and construction firms were presented with the requirements for the projects to be submitted.

As explained April last year, Mgr. Etienne Nguyen Nhu The, Archbishop of Hue, thanks to negotiations with the government, has been able to regain access to almost all of the land formerly belonging to the Marian shrine of approximately 34 hectares. The authorities have also accepted the idea of creating a pilgrimage centre for the Catholic Church in Vietnam on the grounds. The project, laid out by the archbishop, must allow space for, besides the great basilica, a conference centre, which will have 3 thousand seats, a chapel for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, a place for confession, a retreat centre with 400 places. The government, for its part, will ensure the implementation of roads and other infrastructure.  

The anticipated cost is about 25 million dollars. "It is a project - says Father Dominique Phan Hung, Chairman of the management and administration – which will need the input of all Vietnamese Catholics at home and abroad."  

Who have always had the "Lady of La Vang" in their hearts.   Since 1864, when Le Tien Thin PX, community leader of Co Vu organized a pilgrimage for 30 faithful, countless people have crossed the mountains and forests to travel to Our Lady.

The sanctuary has shared the history of Vietnam and the Catholics of this country. Thus, in 1885, under the regime of Van Than, it was burned three times, while the faithful were threatened and killed. In 1894, Father Patinier Kinh, pastor of Co Vu, head of the zone of Quang Tri, where the shrine is located, wrote that in 1885 the sanctuary and the parish did not escape the 'disaster'. When calm returned. I hurried to build a small church." "I asked all the faithful - continues the priest’s story - to give their help to bring the wood from the mountain. On the appointed day, all my parishioners met and walked six miles to rebuild the church".  The same year, Bishop Caspar LOC decided to rebuild the shrine, which had a tiled roof and was designed in the Vietnamese style. It was again destroyed during the war of 1925.    

On 22 August 1961, Pope John XXIII promoted the shrine to a basilica.  

Today, of the shrine destroyed in 1972, we see only the bell tower. But every year hundreds of thousands of people come to pray to Our Lady of La Vang. "When we go to the shrine - said John Paul II in 1988 - we go to entrust to Our Lady all our joys, our sorrows, our hopes"

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