05/25/2007, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Thousands on pilgrimage to Ta Pao, now the country’s third Marian site

The first phase in restoration complete of the Virgins’ statue attributed with intercessional powers. The Country’s Catholics and non-Catholics both contributed to project.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – On May 13th 60 thousand climbed the 492 steps that led to the grotto of Our Lady of Ta Pao statue, in the diocese of Phan Thiet, south Vietnam, which is fast becoming the third most important site of Marian devotion in the country, after La Vang and Tra Kieu. The pilgrimage, motivated also by the completion of the first phase of restoration work on the statue itself, was organised by the diocesan bishop, Msgr. Paul Nguyên Thanh Hoan, who is deeply involved in promoting the place of worship.
 
The chosen date May 13, is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, represented in the statue in Ta Pao.  To mark the occasion the bishop celebrated mass together with 42 priests, officially proclaiming Ta Pao the diocese’s pilgrimage centre.
The statue of the Virgin of Ta Pao is one of the five which in 1959 were erected in various locations across the country. Abandoned during the course of the war, there has been a strong return of the faithful to the image since 1980. In 1989 it became obvious that the statue was in dire need of restoration and work began, lasting for two years.
 
Since then the statue, which crowns Mount Ta Pao is visible from afar, drawing ever increasing numbers of pilgrims. Numerous graces have also been attributed to the statue: the renewal of faith, conversions, family reconciliations and recovery from illnesses. 
The increment in the number of visitors has provoked a reaction from the authorities. In 1999, Thanh Niên, the young communist’s organisation, spoke of a daily presence of almost 10 thousand people and of suspect “simulator” activities, referring to the three students who claim to have seen the Virgin on Mount Ta Pao.
 
Despite this, not just the faithful of the diocese but also Catholics and non-Catholics from across the country contributed to the statue’s restoration.
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