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Pope appoints seminary professor as new bishop in Laos

Apostolic Vicariate of Pakse was without a bishop since 2017

The headquarters of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pakse in Laos

The headquarters of the Apostolic Vicariate of Pakse in Laos. (Photo supplied)

Published: June 03, 2022 10:38 AM GMT

Updated: June 03, 2022 11:00 AM GMT

Pope Francis has appointed Father Andrew Souksavath Nouane Asa, a native clergy and seminary professor, as the apostolic vicar of Pakse in Laos.

Father Nouane, 50, is the second native bishop of the vicariate. Cardinal Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, the first one, was transferred to the Apostolic Vicariate of Vientiane in the national capital in 2017, shortly after Pope Francis made him the nation’s first cardinal.

The priest has served as the apostolic administrator of Pakse since then.

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Father Nouane was born on Aug. 5, 1972, in Pakse, the capital of Champasak province and second-largest city in Laos.

He attended a local minor seminary from 1988-91 and completed postgraduate studies at the Pedagogical University of Vientiane from 1992-96 and obtained a licentiate in English teaching.

From 1998 to 2002, he studied philosophy at Christ the King Seminary in British Columbia, Canada, and from 2002-05 he studied theology at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta.  

Catholicism in Laos, a tiny communist-ruled Southeast Asian country of 7.2 million, dates back to the 17th century. Jesuits were among the first missionaries to arrive and evangelize in Laos

He was ordained a priest on Dec. 30, 2006. He served as a pastor from 10 mission stations from 2007-09 and youth director of the Apostolic Vicariate of Paksé from 2007-12.

He then studied dogmatic theology at St. Vincent School of Theology in Adamson University in Manila, Philippines (2008-10).

Back home, Father Nouane served as a pastor in charge of 12 mission stations from 2010-17. Since 2012 he has been teaching philosophy at St. Jean-Marie Vianney Major Seminary in Savannakhet province as a visiting professor. Since 2017 he has been pastor in charge of 10 mission stations in Bolivene.

He has also been serving as secretary-general of the Episcopal Conference of Laos and Cambodia (CELAC) since 2019.

Pakse Vicariate covers the provinces of Champasak, Saravan, Xeguang and Attapu and is home to an estimated 1.37 million people. More than 15,000 Catholics are spread across 46 parishes and mission stations in Pakse.

Catholicism in Laos, a tiny communist-ruled Southeast Asian country of 7.2 million, dates back to the 17th century. Jesuits were among the first missionaries to arrive and evangelize in Laos.

Some 17 Catholic missionaries and laymen were killed by communist forces in 1960 during the brutal communist insurrection. In 2016, the Vatican beatified them as martyrs

However, Catholicism didn’t have a strong presence until the arrival of missionaries from the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) in the second half of the 19th century. French missionaries are credited with establishing the first indigenous church in Laos in 1885.

The missionary activities gained new impetus following the arrival of Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) missionaries who concentrated their activities in mountainous regions in the north of Laos.

Christianity is a recognized religion in the country but many Buddhists view Christianity as an alien Western faith. In rural areas, Christians are routinely victimized for their faith and expulsion of Christians by other villagers is common.

Some 17 Catholic missionaries and laymen were killed by communist forces in 1960 during the brutal communist insurrection. In 2016, the Vatican beatified them as martyrs.

There are an estimated 60,000 Catholics in Laos, mostly ethnic Vietnamese and other ethnic groups like the Hmong, concentrated in surrounding areas along the Mekong River.

Laos has four bishops but no dioceses and Catholics are covered by four apostolic vicariates.

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