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New church hope for leprosy patients

Safe shelter at last in compound returned to control of Catholics

New church hope for leprosy patients
Father Joseph Mai Tran Huynh gives gifts to patients reporter, Thai Binh City

February 9, 2011

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Patients at Vietnam's largest government-run leprosarium have welcomed the opening of a new church in the colony that will meet all their religious needs. Some 1,200 Religious, leprosy patients and health care workers attended the consecration of the Divine Mercy church on the fourth day of the Lunar New Year or Tet festival. Salesian Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van De of Thai Binh along with 16 priests presided at the ceremony in the compound of the state-run Van Mon leprosarium in Vu Thu district in Thai Binh province. “We are very happy that today God has given an answer to our prayers,” said Vincent Vu The Hung, a patient. Hung, 65 said the old church built 75 years ago was in bad condition and there wasn’t enough room to meet their religious needs. “In the past we had to attend Mass outside the old church,” he added. Do Trong Hien, another patient, said the new church will give them safe shelter from annual floods and tropical storms. “We had to move to higher ground to flee floods,” said Hien, 72, who has lived at the leprosarium since 1956. Father Joseph Mai Tran Huynh, who provides pastoral activities at the leprosarium, said the new Gothic-style church can sit 1,000 people and took 20 months to complete at a cost of 5 billion dong (US$250,000). The leprosarium, established by foreign missionaries in 1900, was taken over by the government in 1954 after the defeat French colonists. In 1993, retired Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh initiated a celebration Mass on the fourth day of the Lunar New Year to pray, console and make donations to patients. This year, local Catholics donated 16 million dong and other materials. Related report Diocese vows to defeat poverty among lepers VT13209.1640
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