Radio Veritas praised by Viet Catholics

Even people in remote areas have access to Church programming, says a supporter during anniversary celebrations
Radio Veritas praised by Viet Catholics

Peter Nguyen Duc Toan and his wife, Mary Tran Thi Tam, watch a Mass aired by Radio Veritas Asia's Vietnamese service on April 11 in Yen Bai Province. ( photo) reporter, Yen Bai
April 12, 2019
Catholics in northern Vietnam have recalled amid 50th anniversary celebrations how the Church's Radio Veritas Asia based in the Philippines helped them keep their faith alive in the face of official repression.

Every day Peter Nguyen Duc Toan and his wife still spend hours listening to church news, reflections and prayers as well as watching Masses via the internet on a large television screen in their home.

"We are addicted to RVA's programs in Vietnamese which have been valuable and useful sources of news and faith life for us during decades of suffering religious restrictions," Toan said.

RVA has been marking its golden anniversary since April 11.

The first radio broadcast took place from Manila on April 11, 1969, and Pope Paul VI blessed the station during a visit to the country on Nov. 29, 1970.

Toan, a former lay leader from Nghia Lo parish, said thousands of local Catholics had no resident priests for nearly 40 years after a priest named Father Peter Du Kim Khoa was imprisoned by communist forces in 1964.

Father Michael Le Van Hong was assigned in 2003 to serve in the four parishes of the mountainous northern province of Yen Bai.

He said local authorities harassed local Catholics in the 1980s over rebuilding on the site of Nghia Lo church, which was destroyed by U.S. bombing during the Vietnam War. Officials refused to recognize the chapel and banned Catholics from gathering for prayers there or erecting a bell tower.

Toan told of how he was imprisoned three times in Vietnam for a total 21 years for struggling for religious freedoms.

He said Radio Veritas allowed Vietnamese Catholics to obtain church news from around the world, in the past often in secret because of fears of retribution from officials.

The 79-year-old added that in jail he also sought to get access to the Catholic radio service.

Toan, who has a long beard and looks healthy, said RVA was effective in spreading and maintaining the faith through what he described as "a special grace” God gives the Catholic Church in Vietnam.

He daily recites the Rosary, goes to church and involves himself in charitable activities. And he is glad that his children and grandchildren have good lives.

Toan's wife, Mary Tran Thi Tam, said that while he was in prison, she worked hard on farms to support the family but they had still lacked sufficient food. The family had to move nine times.

"I always trust in God's providence," Tam said.

"I listened to RVA's programs at night so as to keep my spirits up and overcome challenges."

She said she was interested in stories about how to behave well towards other people and on respecting justice, morality and human rights.

Tam now teaches local children how to dance and offer flowers at Nghia Lo church, which serves 1,200 Catholics.

Toan said it is good that RVA's programs are available on the internet and that he can watch them at convenient times.

Mary Sung Thi Hong Hanh, a Hmong ethnic minority catechist from Phinh Ho parish, said she listens to RVA's programs on her smart phone.

Hanh, 30, said in the past family members gathered around her father who turned on the radio and explained the Bible to them. "My mother aged 82 still remembers hymns and Bible readings thanks to the church radio," she said. 

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