Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of
Vietnamese Catholics visited the La Vang Marian Shrine, in the central province
of Quang Tri, on the feast day of the Assumption, celebrated yesterday, 15
August. Pilgrims made special offerings for their families and the country in
the country's most important shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Mgr Leopoldo
Girelli, Pontifical delegate presided over a special Mass together with the
archbishops and bishops of Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, My Tho, Xuan Loc, Lang Son,
Hung Hoa, Da Lat and Da Nang, as well as 200 priests before a crowd of pilgrims
The feast day celebrated yesterday also saw the laying
of the first stone for the new cathedral. Having obtained all the necessary
provincial permits, the work site opened under the attentive gaze of the
bishops and the members of the Committee for Holy Art of the Vietnam Bishops'
Council. The faithful and pilgrims had waited a long time for construction to
start. For Vietnamese Catholics, Our Lady of La Vang is the most important Vietnamese
On the feast of the Assumption, Vietnamese Catholics
showed loyalty, gratitude, love and communion with the leaders of the country's
Church. In his the homily, the Pontifical representative said, "Mary's assumption
to heaven is our happiness," which will "grow when the Marian Shrine of Our
Lady of La Vang is built" to celebrate Mary "as our heavenly mother."
Mgr Girelli highlighted the importance of religious
freedom for human beings in a country where Catholics are often victims of
abuses. Through cooperation with local authorities, the top Vatican official
said, "We have established ideal conditions to build the cathedral."
Built in 1798, the original shrine has welcomed hundreds
of thousands of Vietnamese. Over the centuries, it was destroyed several times,
the last one in 1972 during the Vietnam War.
The shrine is located in Hai Dang, a district in Quang
Tri province, some 60 kilometres from the city of Hue, at a site where Our Lady
appeared in 1798 when the country was ruled by King Son Tay Canh Thinh who had
ordered the destruction of all churches, parishes and the Catholic faith.
To escape the royal decree, Quang Tri Catholics found
refuge in the forests and mountains of La Vang, praying to God and the Virgin
Mary to spare their lives. Under the branches of an old tree, they spent nights
praying and reciting the Rosary, asking Our Lady for "help and protection."
The cult of Our Lady of La Vang is widespread
also among non-Catholics, including Buddhists and Protestants, who pray to the
Virgin Mary for special graces.
time, it has become a point of reference and the national pilgrimage centre. It
is currently undergoing renovation.