Catholics in white mourning clothes carrying “the coffin of Jesus” marching in procession around Yen Bai church last year
Catholics from the oldest parish in a northwestern province are looking forward to their bishop’s first visit to their parish during the Easter triduum. “We are happy to welcome our bishop who is the first prelate to come and work with us in during Holy Week since our parish was established 113 years ago,” said Roco Pham Van Anh, head of the parish council. Bishop John Maria Vu Tat of Hung Hoa is to visit the parish and celebrate the three days of special services before Easter. The triduum or three-day period begins tomorrow with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening. Anh said Bishop Tat’s visit will help strengthen the faith of local Catholics, many of them having never attended triduum services by a bishop. The parish has no resident priest since last year after Father Joseph Nguyen Gia Huan was assigned to another parish. The lay leader noted that Bishop Tat, who became bishop of the country’s largest diocese in terms of territory on March 22 gives priority to evangelization work and pastoral activities in parishes without a resident priest. Peter Nguyen Van Thanh, who is in charge of liturgy in the parish, said the church is more crowded more than usual during the triduum and especially during Good Friday. Then parishioners stage and chant the Passion of Christ and carry a life-sized wooden statue of Christ in a glass coffin filled with rice around the church before placing it at the altar. People in white mourning bands on the head then kiss the feet of the statue and take a handful of rice from the coffin. This ritual of visiting and praying before the statue continues until Holy Saturday morning.