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Martyrs under communist regime in Laos beatified

Philippine Cardinal Orlando Quevedo attended the ceremony on the Pope's behalf (CNS)
Philippine Cardinal Orlando Quevedo attended the ceremony on the Pope’s behalf (CNS)

17 martyrs of different nationalities died at communist hands from 1954 to 1970

Catholic martyrs of various nationalities have been beatified in Laos, in the first such gesture toward communist regime victims in south-east Asia.

“The Catholic Church in Laos is very small, humble, almost hidden; its story is not well-known,” Oblate Father Roland Jacques, vice postulator of the martyrs’ cause, said in a commentary for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to which six martyrs belonged.

“Planted with the sweat and blood of three generations of missionaries, it can rely today only on its own forces, supported by a handful of priests from Vietnam or Thailand. That goes to show how much this event was unique, unheard of for this small country and very young church.”

The French priest was describing the beatification Mass in Vientiane’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, attended on the Pope’s behalf by Philippine Cardinal Orlando Quevedo as well as 15 bishops and 150 priests, mostly from neighbouring countries, and 6,000 laypeople.

A website statement by the French-based order said all 17 martyrs had died at communist hands from 1954 to 1970 before Laos came under full control of the Maoist Pathet Lao regime in 1975.

Fr Joseph Thao Tien of Houaphanh province, who became one of Laos’ first native-born priests at his 1949 ordination, was taken prisoner when Pathet Lao guerrillas stormed the town of Sam Neua at Easter 1953.

He was sentenced to death and shot outside a prison camp in 1954 after refusing to renounce his priesthood and vows of celibacy.

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