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Cultures meet in the Laotian Church

Communities look to bring beliefs closer to local traditions

A woman gives alms to Buddhist monks A woman gives alms to Buddhist monks
  • ucnaews.com reporter, Thakhet
  • Laos
  • February 15, 2011
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Catholic communities in Laos, where Buddhism is seen as the national religion, are trying to adapt their beliefs with local traditions and culture.

“We have been bringing Christian values to Laotian traditions and religious feasts so that we get close to the Church and live in harmony with others,” Father Phonethep Phinesay told ucanews.com.

Father Phonethep, who provides pastoral activities for Seno parish and 10 sub-parishes in Savannakhet apostolic vicariate, said he blesses local Catholics’ new homes by pouring holy water over floors and sprays holy water over firewood before cremating the dead during funeral services.

The 73-year-old priest said after harvest, local Catholics take rice, beans, alcohol and sticky rice to the church and he blesses, pours water over them and prays for good harvests in the future.

“Local people believe in gods and have great respect for monks,” Father Phonethep noted, adding that 80 percent of the communist country’s population of 6.5 million are Buddhists.

Xom Thak, a Vietnamese-Laotian Catholic, said during the Buddhist New Year, celebrated April 13-15, his family visits a temple where an elderly monk ties strips of colored string on the wrists of his young daughter for good luck.

“We want to maintain popular traditions and to live in harmony with other people,” the 40-year-old father of three said.

Father Phonethep said some village officials and Buddhist monks also attend catechism courses held by the local Church.

The Vietnamese-Laotian priest said he travels 200 kilometers a day to visit and give pastoral activities for 10 sub-parishes with 1,000 Catholics.

On average 10 people are baptized each year, he added.

The local Church also gives free food and health care to poor people.

Young people are given scholarships, accommodation and vocational skills, he added.

The local Church serves around 60,000 Catholics in Laos.

Tags: Father Phonethep Phinesay, traditions, religious feasts, Buddhist monks, Savannakhet apostolic vicariate

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