.- The construction of a Marian shrine on a Vietnamese hilltop began this month after government authorities granted the local diocese permission for the project.
The shrine is being built where a three-meter (nearly 10 foot) statue of Our Lady of Fatima was erected 47 years ago. Work began after the local government approved construction of a 300-meter (984 foot) flight of stairs leading to the statue, a platform for celebrating Mass and a chapel at the site.
More than 50,000 pilgrims gathered at the site for Mass and a foundation laying on Aug. 13th, reported UCA News. The mass was preceded by a Marian procession. The previous evening, about 15,000 pilgrims spent the night praying, reciting the rosary and singing Marian hymns.
The new shrine in Tanh Linh, 1,518 km south of Ha Noi, will be named Ta Pao Marian Shrine.
Bishop Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan of Phan Thiet, who presided at the Mass, told the people that the statue had been standing on Mount Ta Pao for years, but few people paid attention to it until seven years ago, when lay Catholics started reporting miracles.
Bishop Hoan, 74, cited one case of a Vietnamese-American in the last stage of cancer, who reportedly was cured after visiting and praying at the statue. A local man was also healed from liver cirrhosis after his wife prayed at the statue.
The Mount Ta Pao statue was largely ignored during the Vietnam War (1964-1975), when Catholics fled the region. In October 1980, local Catholics rediscovered the statue, which had been broken, and in 1991 they restored it.
The statue became well-known in 1999, after three students said they saw the Blessed Mother appearing to fly to the other side of the mountain. News began circulating of many people going to the statue to pray, returning to the Church, and of broken families reconciling.
Local authorities discouraged visits to the statue for the next two years, but eased restrictions later, when they saw that the pilgrims were peaceful. In 2005 they allowed construction of the Dong Kho church, about 800 meters from the site.
Thousands of pilgrims now come on the 12th and 13th of every month and on Marian Feast Days.