New cardinal from Laos known for kindness and open-minded dialogue

Cardinal-designate Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, places his hands on a new bishop during a 2010 ordination Mass. (CNS CNS photo/UCAN handout via EPA) Cardinal-designate Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, places his hands on a new bishop during a 2010 ordination Mass. (CNS CNS photo/UCAN handout via EPA)

Cardinal-designate Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, who will become the first cardinal from Laos, is an ethnic Khmu, a hill tribe from northern Laos and southern China.

When St. John Paul II named Cardinal-designate Ling as apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, in 2000, the cardinal-designate told ucanews.com, "I never dreamed that this appointment was possible." On May 21, Pope Francis named his to the College of Cardinals; he will be elevated in a consistory at the Vatican on June 28.

Advertisement

Father Raphael Tran Xuan Nhan of Vietnam's Vinh Diocese has worked in Laos since 2005. He described Cardinal-designate Ling as "a kind, friendly, wise and open-minded man. He is interested in evangelization work and welcomes all foreign missionaries to his country."

"Bishop Ling expertly uses dialogue rather than confrontation when addressing church issues and has helped government officials to understand that the Catholic Church is focused on social development," he told ucanews.com.

Father Nhan explained that the cardinal-designate has worked hard to integrate Christian values into Laotian cultures and traditions so that the church can live in harmony with the Buddhist-majority nation.

In a country with only about 45,000 Catholics, Cardinal-designate Ling has a method of seminarian education based on lay catechists, reported ucanews.com.

He explained his system to the Rome-based AsiaNews in 2015: "The positive thing is that we have married catechists who are true missionaries, who go to live in the villages and become the 'roots' of evangelization. They go, live, they begin to build bonds ..."

"We offer this experience to the seminarians. Seminary students must study three years, then they must stop for at least a year, up to three years, to mature in their decision, but also for pastoral experience as catechists, carrying medicines, aid, prayers for the people of the mountain. They integrate with the villagers, live as the villagers do in everything.

"We now have eight major seminarians. They are very dedicated to the people, to the families. Through this sharing, we make our most important contribution, that is the faith," he said.

Catholics in Laos told ucanews.com that Cardinal-designate Ling is diligent and kind to the local community.

He has taken a keen interest in environmental issues, opposing the rapid deforestation by well-connected companies that pushed villagers from their land and created a spiral of social problems. Damming in Laos had threatened ecosystems, while rampant corruption was speeding the degradation.

"Now we are starting to destroy ourselves," Bishop Ling told ucanews.com in a 2015 interview. "It's not from climate change itself but (it is) coming from human beings, and humans doing something very wrong to destroy the earth."

Cardinal-designate Ling was born April 18, 1944, in northern Laos and was ordained a priest in 1972.

An apostolic vicariate is a church jurisdiction established in mission regions where the hierarchy is not yet fully organized. Pakse is one of four vicariates in Laos, which has no dioceses.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement
More: Pope Francis / Asia

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

(Nick Ansell/PA via AP, archive)
Recent allegations about one of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best-known charities has driven increased demands from some quarters that overseas aid be reduced, if not abolished completely.
David StewartFebruary 23, 2018
Students who walked out of classes from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland protest against gun violence in front of the White House on Feb. 21 in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)
The desire for stronger gun control may not translate into more caution with gun storage among owners of firearms.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 23, 2018
Of the estimated 14.5 million school-age Catholic children in the U.S., about or 55 percent are Latino. Yet 4 percent of school-age Latino Catholic children are enrolled in Catholic schools.
Maria Luisa TorresFebruary 23, 2018
Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, is pictured at the Vatican in this Oct. 9, 2012, file photo. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Cardinal Sarah questions why Catholics stand—rather than kneel—and receive Communion in the hand.
Michael J. O’LoughlinFebruary 23, 2018