Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - For
Catholics in one parish located in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, the most
precious gift at Easter would be celebrating Mass in their church. This has
been denied to them for the past 30 years after local authorities seized their
place of worship and never returned it. Despite harassment, local Christians have
continued to grow in their faith, engage in pastoral and social work and carry
out activities of evangelisation that has resulted in thousands of converts and
baptisms. Next Sunday, another group of catechumens will in fact do the same.
"I hope that in this Easter
season, the local government will return our church," said a member of Hiếu Đạo
parish. "We need it for Mass and prayer,"
he told AsiaNews. The parish itself is in the Diocese of Kon Tum (Gia Lai
and Kon Tum provinces), in Vietnam's Central Highlands.
The local bishop, Mgr Michael
Hoàng Đức Oanh, heeded his plea by urging lay people in Kon Tum to "believe in
God despite the loss of the church." In fact, "We are firmly convinced that God
will return the altar to us."
During Lent, more than 30,000
Church members took part in retreats, sacraments and confession offered by diocesan
Since the community still does
not have a church, many residents showed their solidarity by making their homes
available for Gospel readings and the Rosary. As in the past, Easter this year will
see a large number of catechumens undergo baptism. According to diocesan sources,
some 5,000 local people embraced Catholicism since 2003,.
Despite widespread poverty, Catholics
in Kon Tum are very much involved in socially relevant activities, like charity
work, children's education and care for the sick and the elderly. Funds are
also raised to help women start up their own businesses or find jobs.
All this helps non-Christians as
well, including atheists and members of other religions.
Located in Vietnam's central
Highlands, the Diocese of Kon Tum covers an area of 25,000 km2. According
to the latest figures (2003), Catholics number 261,000 out of 1.7 million
The area is poor with an
underdeveloped economy. However, it is rich in vocations and conversions, evidence
of the vitality of the local Church.