The head of a Vatican congregation has asked Vietnam's religious to follow their ancestors' example to bring God's love to people in remote areas. Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz
, prefect of the Rome-based Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, paid a working visit to the archdioceses of Ho Chi Minh City, Hue and Hanoi, and Xuan Loc Diocese, from Sept. 2-7. The cardinal, accompanied by his secretary Father Donato Cauzzo, also celebrated special Masses to pray for the local church, visited two female congregations and met thousands of religious. The 71-year-old prefect said God loves the Catholic Church in Vietnam very much because it was built by the blood of martyrs
. He said the local church's history is marked by men, women and children who dared to die for God and the Catholic faith. More than 130,000 Catholics were killed for their faith in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The Brazilian cardinal said the local church consequently produces many people to follow consecrated life. Vietnam's seven million Catholics are served by 21,000 religious. "I am very impressed that many of you — religious and seminarians — are very young and jubilant," he told hundreds of priests and religious who welcome him at Xuan Loc Bishop's House in Dong Nai province. Cardinal Braz de Aviz urged religious to follow martyrs' shining examples to bring Good News to other people because "greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends." He said they are required to give up themselves to follow Jesus. They must proclaim the Good News with their real lives including mistakes and sins as God always loves them even when they have committed sins. They should respect, love and unite with others. "Following martyrs' examples means giving our own lives to God and other people. In doing so, we will attract many people to come to God," Cardinal Braz de Aviz said. He asked them to bravely reach out to the poor, marginalized and distressed in remote areas and abroad. On Sept. 5, the cardinal met 500 religious at Phu Cam Cathedral in Hue. He asked them to bring the Good News
to poor people by offering them material and spiritual support. Cardinal Braz de Aviz said nuns in Vietnam freely wear habits and serve needy people while those in Muslim countries are not allowed to wear habits working with people. Sacred Heart of Jesus Father Anthony Huynh Day, head of Hue Archdiocese's committee on religious, said religious offer pastoral services, provide accommodation and basic education for students, look after patients, people with disabilities and lonely elderly people, and build houses for victims of natural disasters. During his first visit to Vietnam, Cardinal Braz de Aviz also gave talks to the General Assembly of the Asian Conference of Secular Institutes held on Sept. 4-6 at the Pastoral Center in Ho Chi Minh City. The assembly drew representatives from institutes across Asia.