Jubilee an occasion for the Vietnamese church to identify opportunities and challenges
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The opening of the jubilee of the Vietnamese Church is approaching, which aims, in the words of the Conference of Bishops, to "look to the past, thank God, learn the lessons of history, looking at the present to identify opportunities and challenges, to look to the future to transform lives and build the Church, following the holy counsels of God".
The opening ceremony will be held November 24 in Hanoi, the General Assembly of the People of God will be in Ho Chi Minh City and the conclusion at the national Marian shrine of La Vang. "The allocation to different dioceses - comments Cardinal JB. Pham Minh Man, president of the Organizing Committee of the Jubilee – of the organization of celebrations or big events highlights the unity and solidarity of the Church of Vietnam. In the beginning, the seed of faith was planted and watered by the blood of the witnesses of faith in Hanoi, and there the jubilee will open".
The archdiocese of Saigon, then, in recent decades is where the expansion and enhancement of knowledge of faith for all the people of God has been greatest, so it will organize the Congress of the People of God. This aims to provide a platform for an exchange of views and thoughts on the life of the Church. La Vang, finally, is historically the place from where Our Lady has protected and supported the existence of the faith for future generations, so it will host the closing ceremony on the Epiphany in 2011, to emphasize the mission of faith and proclaim the Good News for all people.
The anniversary is truly a great event for the Church in Vietnam. Catholics live in a socialist country and must work hard and pray every day. In the current situation, the local churches are confronted with various difficulties. Bishops and priests have prepared their dioceses, with the participation of the lay people. We hope to see a revitalisation of the mission work for all Vietnamese Catholics, who live at home or abroad, looking at the present to have courage and keep the faith, belief in God and the Church, to look to the future and spread the Good News. Cardinal Pham Minh Mam, spoke of the intention to "think, discuss and build Christ's Church in Vietnam, a Church of communion and participation, a Church this for humanity, a Church of love and service."
Recent statistics show that although Catholicism is relatively common in Vietnam and the Church has a strong group of active lay faithful, in recent decades the growth of Catholics has fallen behind population growth. In 2007 Catholics were about 6,087,700 out of a total 85,154,900 inhabitants, about 7.15%. A decline compared to 7.2% in 1933 and 7.6% in 1939.
The principal reason remains the oppressive policy of the Government towards the Church. In many areas of the Central Highlands and northern mountainous provinces, pastoral activities are hampered by government bureaucracy and increasing ill-treatment. In these areas, missionary activity is always described as "an offence against national security" and local officials make no effort to hide their hostility towards the Church.
The anti-religious legislation and, in particular, the persistent campaign of propaganda against the Church, that permeates all schooling levels has created obstacles in faith education and confuses young people about the real purpose of the Church, as well as discouraging them to express their identity as Catholics.
(with the collaboration of Emily Nguyen)