People in traditional costumes carry relics of martyrs Phung and Quy into Chau Doc Church in Vietnam's southern Mekong delta on July 31. (Photo supplied)
Catholics from a diocese in the southern Mekong delta have been urged to live the spirit of synodality by following the examples of religious martyrs from the 19th century.
Bishop Joseph Tran Van Toan of Long Xuyen presided at a special Mass joined by 20 priests and many pilgrims to mark the 163 death anniversary of Martyrs Emmanuel Le Van Phung and Peter Doan Cong Quy at Chau Doc Church in An Giang province on July 31.
The prelate said saints Phung and Quy set a shining example of walking together to serve local communities in the midst of religious persecution although they were markedly different in age, education and hierarchy in the Church.
When they met for the first time in 1858 at Dau Nuoc Parish in An Giang province, Father Quy from Bung Parish in Binh Duong province was 32 years old while Phung, a lay leader who had a family, was 62.
Bishop Toan said Phung used his home to hide foreign missionaries and native priests and hold services for Catholics during the persecution years.
He further narrated how the two men came together to serve the community and entered the paschal mystery of Christ. Both were arrested on January 7, 1859, imprisoned in the same prison, and killed in Chau Doc on July 31, 1859.
“As we live out the dignity of Christians and carry out the mission of Christ's disciples, we trust in the love and providence of God the Father and in the goodness of our brothers and sisters,” Bishop Toan said to the pilgrims from two provinces of An Giang and Kien Giang and Can Tho City.
Representatives of local Catholics in traditional clothes and priests carried the martyrs’ relics around the church before the special Mass.
On the previous day, pilgrims rushed to the church where relics of the two saints are kept to say prayers, go to confession, and attend Masses.
Bishop Toan asked people to regularly attend Masses and Eucharist adorations.
In conclusion, the head of the Episcopal Commission for Evangelization of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam urged Catholics to foster friendly relationships with disadvantaged groups, vulnerable and marginalized people, and followers of other faiths.
“Each visit is a chance to meet, listen to and discern in an atmosphere of prayer and spiritual experience,” he said.
Phung was born in 1796 in Dau Nuoc Parish and had nine children. He built churches, parish houses, convents and seminaries.
Born in 1826 in Bung Parish, Quy had five siblings and studied in Penang seminary in Malaysia for 7 years before returning home in 1855. After he was ordained a priest in 1858, he disguised himself as a commoner to visit, console and administer the sacraments to the faithful.
After 10 days of being assigned to Dau Nuoc Parish, Father Quy and 32 Catholics were arrested while they were at Phung’s house in 1859. Phung was strangled to death and Quy was beheaded.
Both were beatified in 1909 by Pope Pius X and canonized in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.