In a land area of 2,093.7 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers Ho Chi Minh City, except for its Cu Chi subdistrict that belongs to the neighboring Phu Cuong diocese. The archdiocese is bounded by Phu Cuong diocese in the north, Xuan Loc diocese in the east and southeast, My Tho diocese in the west and southwest.
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) dates back to 1698 and meanwhile, it is the biggest commercial hub of the country.
According to the latest national census figures released on April 1, 2009, the city's population was 7,162,864 including 6,699,124 Kinh or majority Vietnamese who form 93.52 percent of the population, 414,045 ethnic Chinese people, 24,268 ethnic Khmer people, 7,819 ethnic Cham people, and the rest were other ethnic groups.
The population density ranges from 96 people to 40,000 people per square kilometer.
Regarding ethnic structure, 52 among the country's 54 ethnic minority groups live in the city. The ethnic Kinh or majority Vietnamese numbered 6,699,124 accounting for 93,52 per cent of the population, ethnic Chinese 414,045 or 5.78 per cent, Cham 7,819 and Khmer 24,268.
Vietnamese is widely and mainly used. Ethnic languages are only used within groups. Chinese, English, French, Korean and Japanese are used in companies run by foreigners.
During mid-17th century, many Catholics gathered as communities in Cho Quan, Gia Dinh. Foreign Franciscans established many parishes in the area and the Mekong delta. Later many Catholics who escaped from religious persecution in other places moved to this area. At the end of the 18th century, the area had 87,297 Catholics in 1,024 mission stations. Parishes of Cho Quan and Chi Hoa date back from 1727 and 1771 respectively. In the middle of the 19th century, many local Catholics were killed for their faith. Among the 117 Vietnamese martyrs were canonized on June 19, 1988 in Rome, eight were born in the area. Tay Dang Trong (West Cochinchine) vicariate was carved from Cochinchine (Dang Trong) vicariate on March 2, 1844. The vicariate then covered Mekong Delta provinces and Cambodia. Saint Paul de Chartres nuns started to work in the vicariate in 1860 and Carmelites were present here in 1861, when the present Saint Joseph Major Seminary buildings were built. The Nortre Dame Cathedral was built in 1877 and the bishop's house was built in 1900.
Tay Dang Trong vicariate was renamed Saigon in 1924 and elevated to Saigon archdiocese on Nov. 24, 1960. Archbishop Paul Nguyen Van Binh was the first Vietnamese prelate of the archdiocese.
After French troops were defeated by communists at Dien Bien Phu battlefield in 1954, nearly one million people including Catholics from northern dioceses migrated to the area and established many parishes there.
Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan of Nha Trang was named Coadjutor of the archdiocese only seven days before South Vietnam fell to the communist North on April 30, 1975. However, the communist authorities rejected his appointment and he was jailed in 1975 under severe conditions. He was released in 1988 after 13 years in jail, nine of them in solitary confinement. On an overseas trip he made in 1991, the Vietnamese government declared him "persona non grata" and banned him from returning to Vietnam. In 1994, Pope John Paul II called him to Rome and he lived there ever since. In June 1998, he became president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and Pope John Paul II elevated him to the rank of cardinal on Feb. 21, 2001. The bishop died on Sept. 16, 2002.
Saigon archdiocese was renamed Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City in 1976 after the reunification of Vietnam. 120,000 Catholics and 300 priests left the archdiocese for other places and 370 Church facilities, hospitals, banks and schools were confiscated or closed by the government. For years later, Church activities were limited and the local Church was isolated from the world. Many Catholics were persecuted.
Many local clergy, Religious and seminarians volunteered to work on state-run farms and dig irrigation channels supplying crops with water.
Since the country's adaption of doi moi or renovation policy in late 1980s, religious activities have been partly released. Local Catholics have been integrating into all activities in society to bring Christian values and abundand life to people.
In recent years, the archdiocese revives committees for liturgy, catechism, family, migrants, evangelization, Caritas, interfaith dialog and social communication. Catholic associations and apostolate of the laity also start to work again. Many Church facilities are restored to meet increasing religious needs of local people. The archdiocese that produced dioceses of Da Lat, My Tho, Phu Cuong, Vinh Long and Xuan Loc has nine suffragans. It is the largest archdiocese among three archdioceses in terms of numbers of clergy and Religious, Church facilities and pastoral activities.
The archdiocese is seen as the center of the Catholic Church in Vietnam. All congregations, dioceses and Catholic organizations have contacts and activities based in the country's largest metropolis.
The city has various transportation networks by rivers, sea, air, canal and land. Main vehicles include bicycles, motorbikes, buses, cars, trains, ships and planes. In 2010, the city had 4.5 million motorbikes excluding one million motorbikes from other provinces.
Tan Son Nhat Airport is the country's largest airport having flights to and from all provinces and cities in the country and many places in the world.
The archdiocese has a tropical monsoonal climate, with stable temperature. Its maximum temperature is 40 degrees Celsius and minimum temperature is 13.8 degrees Celsius. It has a mean annual temperature of 27 degrees Celcius and a mean annual rainfall of 1,949 mm.
It has two seasons - the dry season lasting from May to November and the rainy season lasting from December to April.
The annual per capita income in 2010 was US$2,800, higher than the country's average per capita income of US$1,168.
The literacy rate in 2009 was 97.9 percent in the archdiocese. In 2008, the city had illiterate 90,000 people.
According to the 2009 national census, 1,983,048 people or 27.68 per cent of the population declared their religion - 1,164,930 Buddhists or 16.26 per cent, 745,283 Catholics or 10.4 per cent (a different number from the Church record, see above), 31,633 Cao Dai followers or 0.44 per cent, 27,016 Protestants or 0.37 per cent, 6,580 Muslims or 0.09 per cent.
Gonsalo's martyrdom at Nagasaki with the other Christian missionaries is regarded as the most tragic and historic event for Catholicism in Japan
Calungsod and his companion Father Vitores baptized infants, children and adults, defying the risk of persecution and murder
Despite being an ordinary layman, Ruiz remained defiant while facing torture by the Japanese and died a brave martyr
He was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea
This fabled church is also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross) Church
Asian Catholics who cannot visit famous Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in France can revere miraculous Mother Mary at Velankanni shrine in India. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as “the Lourdes of the East” and holds the largest Catholic Church in Asia.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India. Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.
Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.
The shrine holds a three-meter-tall, white-stone carved statue Virgin Mary on the Tao Pao Mountain in the Diocese of Phan Thiet in southern Vietnam, about 1,600 kilometers from the national capital Hanoi.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Urakami of Nagasaki is a witness of persecution of Christians from 17th to 19th centuries and deadly atomic bombing during the Second World War. This European-style, red-brick church continues to preserve some relics that survived the atomic bombing. Urakami cathedral, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was almost destroyed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945. The church stood about 500 meters from the hypocenter of atomic explosion. The devastation shattered and charred stone-made statues of saints, which were later preserved as relics along with the surviving head of Virgin Mary statue and one of the church’s original bells.
Our Lady of Akita Catholic Church is Yuzawadai is among the most famous churches in Japan. The church shot into global fame thanks to a wooden statue of Blessed Virgin Mary that wept 101 times and Marian apparitions to Japanese nun Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa that miraculously healed her hearing impairment. Japanese wooden sculptor Saburo Wakasa from Akita city carved the now-famous miraculous statue of Virgin Mary in 1963.
The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Seria is a small church on the western Belait district of Brunei, but it shot into fame thanks to the nation’s most famous Catholic – late Cardinal Cornelius Sim. It is also the second of three churches in Brunei dedicated to Virgin Mary. In fact, Mary has a prominent place not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, the dominant faith in Brunei. Holy Quran mentions Mary seventy times and reveres her as the greatest woman to have ever lived.