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Vietnam Church remembers its first bishops

It wants them to be honored when the country marks the 500th anniversary of the introduction of Catholicism in 2033

UCA News reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

UCA News reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

Published: September 22, 2021 07:13 AM GMT

Updated: September 22, 2021 10:51 AM GMT

Vietnam Church remembers its first bishops

Priest and professors celebrate a Mass at Stella Maris Major Seminary in Nha Trang. (Photo courtesy of giaophannhatrang.org)

Rectors and professors from 11 major seminaries attended an online conference focused on community life and evangelization, the backbone of priestly formation.

Bishop Joseph Do Manh Hung, head of the Episcopal Commission for Clergy and Seminarians of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, who presided over the Sept. 17 event, highlighted the determined efforts by the founding bishops Pierre Lambert de la Motte of Dang Trong and Francois Pallu of Dang Ngoai to build the basic foundations of the Church in Vietnam.

“Bishops de la Motte and Pallu, who were close friends and full of missionary ardor, closely cooperated with one another on their missionary journeys with a spirit of solidarity and responsibility,” Bishop Hung said.

“They lived and died for the mission entrusted to them to build the Church in Vietnam in love with crucified Christ.” 

After arriving in Thailand, the French bishops and six priests set up a seminary in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya to train indigenous priests in 1665. Three years later, Bishop de la Motte ordained three first Vietnamese priests in initial preparation for establishing local clergymen.

In 1670, he ordained seven priests on his boat in Dang Ngoai.

The spirituality of the Lovers of the Holy Cross created by Bishop de la Motte remains interesting and alive in the heart of the local Church

Bishop Hung, who used to teach at St. Joseph Major Seminary in Ho Chi Minh City, said Bishop de la Motte fathered Vietnamese priests who became massive pillars of the local Church and provided spiritual support for the faithful in the most difficult times.

He said they adopted strong lines of evangelization and building the Church based on crucified Jesus, close communion with and abiding by the Holy See’s instructions and joining all God’s people in developing the Church.

The 64-year-old prelate said the spirituality of the Lovers of the Holy Cross created by Bishop de la Motte remains interesting and alive in the heart of the local Church.

There are 24 Lovers of the Holy Cross congregations in Vietnam and six others abroad, with a total of 11,000 members. Lovers of the Holy Cross associations have 15,000 members based in parishes.

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Bishop Hung said Vietnam bishops express their profound gratitude to the two French prelates by having assigned Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi and himself to prepare the cause for their canonizations in 2018.

Despite religious persecution in Vietnam, Bishop de la Motte (1624-79) paid three pastoral visits from 1669 to 1675 to the country, where he ordained indigenous missioners, dealt with problems among missioners, founded Lovers of the Holy Cross congregation and Lovers of the Holy Cross associations for the laity, held councils offering pastoral guidelines to local Catholics, administered sacraments to local Catholics, consoled lay leaders, and promoted harmony and unity among local people.

Bishop Pallu (1626-84) spent years traveling long distances between Asia and Europe, sought the Vatican's formal approval for pastoral activities in Vietnam, enrolled new staff and raised funds for evangelization work. He was named as vicar apostolic of Fujian in China in 1679 and died there in 1684.

Bishop Hung called on all people to work with one another to collect relevant documents and accelerate the process of the cause of their canonizations. Historical materials on them should be studied at seminaries. Devotion to the prelates should be promoted among local people.

The local Church longs for them to be honored when it marks the 500th anniversary of the introduction of Catholicism in Vietnam in 2033, he said.

Participants discussed how to bear witness to Christian values and support people in misery caused by the Covid-19 pandemic

Bishop Hung said the holy fruits of the two prelates’ sacrifices are the hundreds of Christians who courageously died for the faith, among them 117 martyrs and beatified Andrew Phu Yen. 

The Church in Vietnam with 27 dioceses has been served by 120 bishops and has 4,000 priests, 2,563 seminarians in 11 major seminaries, 35,000 religious from 310 orders, and seven million Catholics in 4,500 parishes.

During their meeting, participants discussed how to bear witness to Christian values and support people in misery caused by the Covid-19 pandemic that is raging in the country.

They also talked about ways of orienting and developing suitable formation programs in the context of the coronavirus outbreak to ensure the continuity and comprehensiveness of the formation process.

Rectors and professors from domestic seminaries annually gather to share their experience in priestly formation and attend regular training courses. Last year their meeting was canceled due to the pandemic.

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