MONGO, Chad, JUNE 5, 2009 ( Benedict XVI has elevated the apostolic prefecture of Mongo to an apostolic vicariate, since the number of Catholics in the region has increased by 15% in the last 20 years.

In the Central African nation, which has some 10 million inhabitants, 53% of the population is Muslim. Two decades ago, Catholics numbered only 5%; now they are 20% of the population.

Bishop Miguel Ángel Sebastián Martínez of Lai, Chad, spoke of the rapid growth of the Church in his country when he addressed the synod of bishops last October.

He explained the importance given to the Word of God and the Eucharist, noting that Catholics cannot always attend Mass each Sunday because of a lack of priests, but that they gather to read and pray the Bible, and to seek "what they should do to change that in their lives which is not in conformity with the Gospel."

The Pope named Jesuit Bishop-designate Henri Coudray to be the first apostolic vicar of Mongo.

The French bishop-designate has been the apostolic prefect in Mongo since 2001. He is a specialist in the Arabic language, Islam and interreligious dialogue.

Henri Coudray was born in 1942 and studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the Sorbonne, and received a licentiate in Arabic and Islamic studies in Lyon.

He was ordained a priest in 1973 and made his profession in the Society of Jesus in 1980.

The Catholics of the vicariate, some 6,000 out of a population of 1.7 million, are distributed in six parishes, attended by nine priests, 13 women religious, five men religious, eight lay missionaries, and two seminarians.