Vietnamese bishops have called on Catholics to embrace the spirit of martyrdom
in their daily lives to celebrate a special anniversary. The Catholic Church in Vietnam is holding a jubilee year to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the canonization of 117 Vietnamese martyrs on June 19. Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh
, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, said opening Masses will be held at three historical sites for the country's ecclesiastical provinces. The 135-year-old Minor Basilica of Immaculate Conception of Mary in Ha Nam province, which is home to two martyrs — Father Peter Truong Van Thi and Brother Peter Truong Van Duong — will host Mass for Hanoi Archdiocese and nine northern dioceses. The 220-year-old national shrine of Our Lady of La Vang in Quang Tri province will be the venue for Hue Archdiocese and five central dioceses. Ba Giong Pilgrimage Center in Tien Giang province, where thousands of Catholics were killed in the 18th and 19th centuries, will celebrate Mass for Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese and nine southern dioceses. Archbishop Linh asked Catholics to "live out the spirit of martyrdom" in their daily lives to bear witness to God and the Good News. He encouraged them to visit the destitute, sick, disabled, prisoners and elderly people without relatives as ways to encounter Jesus. He also said they "should reduce unnecessary expenses to support people in need, donate to construction of religious and public works, and work for the common good." Nov. 24 is the feast day of Vietnamese martyrs. St. Pope John Paul II canonized 117 Vietnam martyrs — 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spanish and 10 French — at St. Peter's Square in Rome on June 19, 1988. It was the largest number of martyrs canonized in a single ceremony at that time, surpassing the 103 Korean martyrs canonized in South Korea in 1984. In 2000, however, the late pope canonized 120 Chinese martyrs. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Vietnam's feudal authorities massacred Catholics and Western missioners, often accusing them of collaborating with the French, who were vying with other colonial powers for regional influence. Intermittent periods of persecution
occurred after the introduction of Christianity in the mid-16th century, but repression escalated after 1798 when the Nguyen Dynasty banned Catholicism. More than 130,000 Vietnamese Catholics died during these persecutions before the French conquered the country in 1886.