In Reversal, Laos Blocks Ordination

VIENTIANE, Laos, DEC. 12, 2005 ( The Laotian government withdrew its permission for what would have been the first priestly ordination in the country since 1975.

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The ordination of Sophone Vilavongsy, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate, has been postponed indefinitely. The 32-year-old was scheduled to become the first Laotian to become an ordained priest in 30 years, the AsiaNews agency reported.

“Soldiers are monitoring the church to make sure that the [government] order is enforced,” said Bishop Jean Khamsé Vithavong, apostolic vicar of Vientiane, the last and only Laotian Oblate father ordained on Jan. 25, 1975. “Now we’ll have to wait and see how the situation will develop.”

The authorities have not explained why they withdrew the previously granted permission.

The permission itself had come with strict conditions; for instance, the ceremony could not take place in the future priest’s home village and the number of attendees at the ceremony had to be small.

For the occasion, people from Australia had flown in. Sophone, who studied in that country, had become deacon and taken his perpetual vows there.

Since its takeover of Laos in 1975, the ruling Communist Pathet Lao had expelled foreign missionaries. Since then, only one seminary survives under tight government control.

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