Hanoi (AsiaNews) - At least 500 thousand people attended the closing ceremonies of the anniversary of the Vietnamese Church, celebrated at the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang January 4 to 6. Despite the torrential rain and cold, the crowds of faithful were joined by 35 Vietnamese bishops, 7 from other countries, 1200 priests and a large number of catechists and volunteers.
Despite earlier announcements, neither the president nor the Vietnamese Prime Minister took part in the ceremonies. Only Nguyen Thien Nhan, one of five deputy prime minister came for the second day of celebrations as a representative of the government. In his short speech he exalted the religious freedom enjoyed throughout the country.
The Jubilee Year was full of events, starting in November 2009. It celebrated the 350th anniversary of the founding of the first Apostolic Vicariates in Indochina and the first 50 years of the Catholic hierarchy in Vietnam.
The final mass of 6 January was presided over by Card. Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and papal legate for the occasion. The day before Card. Dias blessed a new statue of Our Lady of La Vang and the foundation stone for the new sanctuary, the construction of which has received government permission.
After the celebrations, on 8 January, Cardinal. Dias visited the seminary in Hanoi and met with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the contribution of Catholics to the construction and defence of the country and pledged that his government will give a new impetus for improving relations between the Holy See and Hanoi.
For his part, the prefect of Propaganda Fide, stressed that the pope wishes for progress in diplomatic ties, expressing the wish that the Vietnamese Church can contribute even more to the good of the country in the fields of education, health and social activities . Once again, he cited what seems to have become a slogan in the relations between Vietnam and the Vatican (and Vietnamese Church), that "a good Catholic is a good citizen."Earlier, speaking to the faithful gathered in La Vang, Card. Dias had compared the relationship between church and state to the relationship between a father and mother in a family and concluded that their mutual agreement is "of benefit to children".