Updated: April 16, 2021 04:18 PM GMT
Vietnamese bishops celebrate the 350th anniversary of Bishop Lambert de la Motte’s first visit to Nha Trang. (Photo: giaophannhatrang.org)
Bishops across Vietnam have expressed deep gratitude to their first bishop’s first pastoral visit that laid the foundations for the local Church’s development.
On April 15, some 25 archbishops and bishops concelebrated a special Mass to mark the 350th anniversary of Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte’s first pastoral visit to parishes in Nha Trang Diocese at Christ the King Cathedral in the coastal city of Nha Trang. The prelates were attending their first biannual meeting held at Nha Trang Bishop’s House.
They also congratulated Bishop Joseph Vo Duc Minh of Nha Trang on the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.
Bishop Minh presided at the celebration joined by hundreds of priests and attended by hundreds of people.
Emeritus Cardinal Archbishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi told the congregation that French Bishop de la Motte, the first bishop of Dang Trong (Cochinchine) Vicariate that was established in 1659 and covered southern Vietnam, was accompanied by some priests from Siam (now Thailand) and secretly landed at the now Cho Moi Parish on the evening of Sept. 1, 1671. At that time Catholics faced severe religious persecution.
Cardinal Nhon said the late bishop’s first visit “built sound foundations for the organized missionary work of the local Church later on our nation.” His work was like seeds that are sown on the ground and decayed to bear fruit.
Cardinal Nhon urged Catholics across the country to make positive contributions to the case by fervently praying
The 83-year-old cardinal said the local Church now has 27 dioceses and 9,000 members of 30 Lovers of the Holy Cross congregations serving the country and abroad. Bishop de la Motte set up the first Lovers of the Holy Cross congregation for local women in the south in December 1671.
The emeritus archbishop said Vietnamese bishops are accelerating the process of the cause for canonization of bishops de la Motte and Francois Pallu of Dang Ngoai (Tonkin) Vicariate as a way to show the local Church’s heartfelt gratitude. Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi and Bishop Joseph Do Manh Hung of Phan Thiet have been assigned to deal with the case.
Cardinal Nhon urged Catholics across the country to make positive contributions to the case by fervently praying, collecting solid evidence of the two late prelates and work as witnesses.
He also called on the faithful to pray for Bishop Minh to be faithful to Jesus and give up himself and sacrifice his life to the Church as his episcopal motto "He loved them to the end."
He said he knows Bishop Minh well as they have been close friends for nearly 70 years since they were in their home city of Da Lat. The bishop, an expert in the Scriptures who headed the Episcopal Commission on the Bible of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam from 2010-19, devotes himself to teaching and spreading the Bible.
Bishop Minh, 76, said that when he was eight years old, he was inspired by St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus.
When he was ordained a priest for Da Lat Diocese in 1971, the late Bishop Simon Hoa Nguyen Van Hien reminded him that “God chose you so you must choose him. Your happiness belongs to God and the Church. You should remember my motto: We preach Christ crucified.”
He said his predecessor, the late Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, who was imprisoned in northern Vietnam for 13 years, nine of them in solitary confinement, told him “Don’t fear. God be always with you. You should follow the shining examples of foreign missionaries and martyrs in Vietnam, and the path of the cross leads to the path of hope. You should be consistent in faith. I bless and pray for you. I love and believe in you.”
Bishop Minh said he never forgot the late bishop’s words and tries to fulfill them.
He called on local Catholics to “continue to pray for me so that I live out completely what God teaches me.”