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MEP 'takes pride' in Vietnam beatification bid for founder

MEP members, including Bishop Pallu, came to integrate and train indigenous clergy in the former French colony 

Fathers Vincent Sénéchal (left) and Balthazar Castelino offer Bishop François Pallu’s relic to Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi on Oct. 28.

Fathers Vincent Sénéchal (left) and Balthazar Castelino offer Bishop François Pallu’s relic to Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi on Oct. 28. (Photo: tonggiaophanhanoi.org)

Published: November 01, 2023 06:49 AM GMT

Updated: November 01, 2023 12:15 PM GMT

The France-based Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) has expressed happiness and pride at Church officials in Vietnam starting the beatification process of one of its founders, Bishop François Pallu.

"We are really proud to see the Church in Vietnam open the canonization cause of Pallu, and that pleases us," said Father Vincent Sénéchal, the MEP superior-general.

Sénéchal and his deputy, Father Balthazar Castelino, attended the formal opening of the diocesan inquiry by Hanoi archdiocese on Oct. 29.

The visiting MEP members have handed over Pallu’s relic to Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi.

Sénéchal described the opening of Pallu’s beatification cause as “an event full of joy for our society.”

“We will offer the local Church historical documents relevant to the inquiry,” Sénéchal said.

Sénéchal said the Church in Vietnam had existed before his society’s establishment in 1658. Pallu and other MEP missionaries came to integrate the local Church and train indigenous clergy, he said. 

It was the first for Vietnam, a former French colony, to start the sainthood cause of a foreign missionary.

MEP’s first bishops, Pallu and Lambert de la Motte, were assigned to lead Dang Ngoai and Dang Trong respectively in 1659. 

Hanoi archdiocese and 10 other dioceses in the northern region consider Dang Ngoai as their mother diocese.

Sénéchal, 51, who earlier worked in neighboring Cambodia for nine years, said Pallu's beatification process showed that “the Catholic Church is universal and local people recognize that they received the Catholic faith from foreign missionaries.”

He said it is like the Church in France receiving the Good News from the Greek missionary St. Irenaeus.

The expert in biblical theology said that honoring foreign missionaries means “to promote evangelization and share our faith with those who have not known about divine love.”

Sénéchal said his society and the Church in Vietnam have maintained a strong relationship for a long time.

He said over 1,200 out of 4,300 MEP missionaries served dioceses in Vietnam until 1975 and many faced severe persecution in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Among them was the martyr, Father Jean Théophane Vénard (1829-1860), who was beheaded in Cua Bac parish in Hanoi.

Of 117 Vietnamese martyrs, 10 belonged to the MEP.

Sénéchal said that the society is no longer active in Vietnam since the local Church has grown many fold.

But the MEP still provides priestly formation for Vietnamese students, he added.

According to the local Church, the French missionary society has sponsored hundreds of priests and religious to study theology, philosophy, canon law and social sciences at Institut Catholique de Paris (Catholic University of Paris) for the past three decades.

Some 20 graduates have become bishops and archbishops, while others teach at seminaries, lead congregations and hold important positions in the local Church.

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