LAOS – Hundreds of Lao Catholics were forced to gather and celebrate Easter without a priest outside their chapel in a parish bordering Thailand on April 8 following its recent closure by the government.

“Around 200 Lao Catholics recited the rosary, sang hymns and read the Gospel to celebrate Easter in front of Kengweng chapel, while four armed soldiers watched from the chapel’s gate,” said Lovers of the Holy Cross Sr Josephine Seusy, who organised the ceremony.

“We prayed with the risen Christ for the government to return the chapel,” she said.

The chapel, built in 1964, was closed off to parishioners by Savannakhet provincial authorities in February.

The 200 sq m chapel set on a 500 sq m plot of land is located in Xaybuly district of the province.

“The government decided to confiscate the chapel after saying we had no ownership papers,” she said.
“It plans to build a school on the plot.”

On April 7, three local Catholics were arrested and questioned by security officials after they removed a closure notice which was posted on the main door of the chapel by government officials in February.

The faithful had also gathered outside the chapel to celebrate Palm Sunday.

Sr Seusy said priests from elsewhere are still being prevented from providing pastoral services for local Catholics.

She said she and her five novices have to hold prayers, teach catechism and provide communion, baptism and funeral services

There are around 3,000 Catholics among 850,000 people, most of them Buddhists, in Savannakhet province.

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