Participants swear allegiance to the Church at the opening ceremony of the Hanoi Archdiocesan Synod at St Joseph Cathedral on Nov 20. (Photo: tonggiaophanhanoi.org)
Hanoi archdiocese opened a special synod this week ahead of the feast of Vietnam martyrs amid concerns of Catholics being driven away from the faith by secular tendencies.
Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi opened the five-day archdiocesan synod on Nov 20 seeking ways for better faith formation along with 183 Catholics, priests, and Cardinal Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, the retired archbishop.
The special synod marks the 110th anniversary of the Ke So Council, which provided pastoral instructions for local Catholics to live out their faith and integrate themselves into a new situation after a bloody persecution against them ended.
The synod will conclude at So Kien Basilica on Nov 24, the feast of Vietnamese Martyrs, who died witnessing the faith during the persecution in the 18th and 19th centuries.
"70 percent of people have difficulties in practicing their faith"
Archbishop Thien said the synod will provide an opportunity for some 350,000 Catholics in the archdiocese to “find new ways to deepen our faith life and bear witness to faith.”
He expressed concern over Catholics being driven away from the Church’s teachings and by secular tendencies in society. The majority of some 10 million people in the archdiocese are atheists and followers of other faiths.
A sample survey conducted ahead of the synod among some 7,300 Catholics said that 70 percent of people have difficulties in practicing their faith because of a lack of proper faith education.
At least 42 percent said they could not talk about Catholicism to others, and 11 percent admitted to having some superstitions.
The deputy head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam said the synod is an effort of the local Church to adapt and integrate into Vietnamese society today.
The synod was scheduled to discuss ways to renew liturgical activities, apostolic missions, faith education, personal life, associations and the archdiocesan curia. It will also make plans to manage Church properties, build facilities, and renovate administrative procedures, records and archives.
Before the synod, the archdiocese organized a sociological survey to assess local people’s state of faith life and 22 seminars on various aspects of faith life.
It was timed for the anniversary of the Ke So Council, which was held with 18 bishops and priests from the seven northern dioceses in Vietnam on Nov 10-24 in 1912 at the then Ke So Cathedral. It is now known as So Kien Minor Basilica in Ha Nam province and comes under Hanoi Archdiocese.
The Ke So Council issued official regulations on the responsibilities and duties of local clergy, missionaries, catechists, seminaries, and religious orders, and also on the celebration and reception of the sacraments.
It asked clergymen to diligently take care of people’s faith by attending Masses and abstaining from servile work and business. It also asked them to fast, abstain from meat, take care of neophytes and steer clear of superstitions.
The council provided practical guidelines on the management of Church properties and records, and encouraged priests and religious to set up schools, orphanages, and hospitals to serve local people.
Priests and religious were asked to publish Church documents and books in the Vietnamese language as part of spreading the message of Christ.
Church facilities built following the council were destroyed by wars and confiscated by the communist government after 1954 when hundreds of thousands of Catholics fled to South Vietnam to avoid religious persecution.