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AsiaNews – The ordination of Sophone Vilavongsy, an Oblate Missionary of Mary Immaculate, has been postponed indefinitely. The 32-year-old was scheduled to become the first Laotian to become an ordained priest in 30 years, but at the last moment, the government withdrew its permission.

“Soldiers are monitoring the church to make sure that the [government] order is enforced,” said Mgr J. Khamsé Vithavong, apostolic vicar of Vientiane , the last and only Laotian Oblate father ordained on January 25, 1975. “Now we’ll have to wait and see how the situation will develop.”

The authorities have not offered any explanation as to why they withdrew the previously granted permission.

The permission itself had already come with strict conditions; for instance, the ceremony could not take place in the future priest’s home village and the number of people who could participate in the ceremony had to be small.

For the occasion, people from Australia had flown in. Sophone, who studied in that country, had become deacon and taken his perpetual vows there.

Ordaining a priest now was highly significant for the Church of Laos . Since its take over of the country in 1975, the ruling Communist Patheth Lao had permanently expelled all foreign missionaries. Since then only one seminary survives under “tight government control”.