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Tibetan Catholic texts discovered in pristine condition

HONG KONG (Agencies): Texts in 45 volumes of the scriptures, as well as a history of the Blessed Virgin Mary written in the language of Tibet were recently discovered at the only Catholic parish that exists in the country today, Mang Kang (or Shang Yan Jing).

Fides says that the scriptures were translated in 1931 and the 489 files on the history of Our Lady date back to 1932.

Experts say that they are the only Catholic texts written in Tibetan, which are still preserved in such pristine condition.

The parish was opened in 1855 by the Paris Foreign Mission Society in Yan Jing.

The priests built a church in an architectural style described as a mixture of Han and Tibetan.

Fides says that dozens of paintings of Our Lady and Jesus decorated the walls of the church and a huge cross on the roof was visible for miles.

Between 1865 and 1959, a total of 17 missionaries served in the parish. Seven of them were martyred, along with 11 laypeople.

The parish was closed in 1959 and not reopened until 1988. The parish priest today is of Tibetan nationality. There are two elderly religious sisters and two novices, as well as a congregation of 740 people.

The parish timetable boasts two Masses each day, with three on Sundays. It is also reported that one member of the parish, an 84-year-old woman, knows the whole bible off by heart in Tibetan.

Faith News reports that the first priest to set foot in Tibet was Father Odorico Mattiuzzi (now blessed), who came from Beijing in 1338. He is recorded in history as the first westerner to visit the area and the first Catholic.

Between 1603 and 1661, several Jesuits tried to found Christian communities in the country, but all were either killed or forced to flee.

The Italian Lazarist (Vincentian) missionaries had a try in 1707 and it was reported that in 1729 a large bell was donated by a Father Desideri, which hung in the Temple of Jokhang (throne of God), in Lhasa.

However, they were forced to flee in 1749.

Lay Catholics from China tried to enter the country in 1812, but were expelled by the authorities. It was not until 1846 that the Lazarists returned, with two priests coming from Beijing.

By 1890, there were over 1,000 Catholics listed as living in Tibet, but by 1920 this had been reduced to 776. However, a further 1,222 were listed in the Tibetan area of Sichuan and 1,544 in Yunnan.

The Paris Foreign Missionaries and the Augustinians had both arrived by 1933, but had all been expelled by the time of the Cultural Revolution.

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