Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Ba Giong Parish wants to build a pilgrimage centre dedicated to Vietnamese martyrs to meet the "material and spiritual needs" of visiting faithful who want to benefit from the "many blessings" offered by those who in the past shed their blood for the faith.
Located in the Mekong Delta, Tien Giang province, the parish is part of the Diocese of My Tho. Fr J.B. Nguyen Tan Sang was appointed as the local vicar in March 2011. Speaking AsiaNews, he explained that the facility is already under construction and will meet the needs of pilgrims who want to visit the land where, in the past centuries, thousands of Catholics were killed for bearing witness to Christ.
In 2004, Mgr Paul Bui Van Dọc, then bishop of My Tho and now archbishop of Saigon, gave land owned by Ba Giong Parish to the diocese' faithful to build a place to meet and pray and thus honour the memory of the martyrs, especially Fr Peter Nguyen Van Luu, the diocese's patron saint.
The faith of Ba Giong parishioners is strong, built on the example of 18th century martyrs. Over the years, their parish saw the blossoming of many a vocation, including priests, monks and nuns who chose to dedicate their life to Christ.
More than 2,000 Catholics call the area home. They are actively involved in pastoral work and the mission, especially among non-Christians. Agriculture is their main economic activity in a land that possesses a certain bucolic quality. Farmers here are not rich, but they are far from being deprived. In many ways, their life is almost idyllic because of their "treasure", which is their faith.
Once up and running, the new pilgrimage centre will be dedicated to local Vietnamese martyrs, to the thousands who literally fell under the axe of kings and emperors because of their Christian faith.
Back in 1700, King Minh Vuong, who ruled southern Vietnam, banned Christianity and imposed the death penalty on those who refuse to follow his edict. A group of Christians fled and founded the parish of Ba Giong. Here more Christians met the same tragic fate more than a century later, including Saint Phan Van Minh who was beheaded in 1853.
The last executions took place in 1862 when 25 faithful were beheaded in the market square of the neighbouring parish of Co Chi, less than 2 kilometres from Ba Giong.