Communist Laos gets first-ever cardinal

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Laos’ new cardinal: Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun

In a surprise move, Pope Francis on May 21 named new cardinals for countries where Catholics are only a small minority: Mali, Sweden – and Laos.

Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun (73), apostolic vicar of the southern Lao city of Pakse, will become the first-ever cardinal in the Communist nation where the Catholic church makes up only 45,000 members out of a total population of 6.8 million.

A ceremony is scheduled for June 28 in Vatican City to elevate the churchmen, all currently bishops, to cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Laos, although a Communist one-party state, is not officially atheistic. The constitution provides for freedom of religion, although the government has a long history of restricting this right in practice.

Statistically, around two thirds of Laotians are Buddhist and some 30 per cent are followers of a diverse range of folk religions. Some 1.5 per cent are Christians, with the Lao Evangelical Church, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Roman Catholic Church being the three recognised variants. There is also a small number of people practising Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Bahai and Islam, and an even smaller number of atheists.

Most of the Catholics are of Vietnamese descent and live in urban areas in central and southern Laos, while others are members of hill tribes, including Hmong. The new cardinal is an ethnic Khamu, a hill tribe living in northern Laos and southern China.

Ling is known for engaging in environmental issues, opposing the rapid deforestation by well-connected mining and hydropower companies that pushed villagers from their land and created a spiral of social problems. Some say this frequently landed him in trouble with those in power.

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[caption id="attachment_29875" align="alignleft" width="300"] Laos' new cardinal: Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun[/caption] In a surprise move, Pope Francis on May 21 named new cardinals for countries where Catholics are only a small minority: Mali, Sweden - and Laos. Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun (73), apostolic vicar of the southern Lao city of Pakse, will become the first-ever cardinal in the Communist nation where the Catholic church makes up only 45,000 members out of a total population of 6.8 million. A ceremony is scheduled for June 28 in Vatican City to elevate the churchmen, all currently bishops, to cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church. Laos,...

Reading Time: 1 minute

Laos’ new cardinal: Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun

In a surprise move, Pope Francis on May 21 named new cardinals for countries where Catholics are only a small minority: Mali, Sweden – and Laos.

Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun (73), apostolic vicar of the southern Lao city of Pakse, will become the first-ever cardinal in the Communist nation where the Catholic church makes up only 45,000 members out of a total population of 6.8 million.

A ceremony is scheduled for June 28 in Vatican City to elevate the churchmen, all currently bishops, to cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Laos, although a Communist one-party state, is not officially atheistic. The constitution provides for freedom of religion, although the government has a long history of restricting this right in practice.

Statistically, around two thirds of Laotians are Buddhist and some 30 per cent are followers of a diverse range of folk religions. Some 1.5 per cent are Christians, with the Lao Evangelical Church, the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and the Roman Catholic Church being the three recognised variants. There is also a small number of people practising Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Bahai and Islam, and an even smaller number of atheists.

Most of the Catholics are of Vietnamese descent and live in urban areas in central and southern Laos, while others are members of hill tribes, including Hmong. The new cardinal is an ethnic Khamu, a hill tribe living in northern Laos and southern China.

Ling is known for engaging in environmental issues, opposing the rapid deforestation by well-connected mining and hydropower companies that pushed villagers from their land and created a spiral of social problems. Some say this frequently landed him in trouble with those in power.

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