La Vang, over 100,000 pilgrims at Sanctuary of the Apparitions
by Huong Duong

The Virgin appeared for the first time in the forest in 1798, to comfort the Catholics persecuted by the king. Bishop Dominic Nguyễn Văn Mạnh, auxiliary bishop of Đà Lạt: "Here we meet Mary in a more special way, because she promised, 'Anyone who comes here to pray to me will be heard.'" Vietnamese devotion to Our Lady.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - More than 100,000 people took part in the 31st edition of the pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Our Lady of La Vang, organized by the archdiocese of Huế (central province of Thừa Thiên Huế) between August 13 and 18. The event, with the theme "Living with the Spirit of Fatima's Message", saw the participation of many non-Catholics.

Every year the Vietnamese Church celebrates the apparitions of Our Lady over two centuries ago in the forest "Cây Lá Vằng" (La Vang woods), in the province of Quảng Trị (territory of the Huid Archdiocese). In their faith, the Vietnamese are very devoted to Mary and often pray the Rosary. The Mother of God represents maternal love for the poor, the afflicted and the miserable. This year marks the centenary of Virgin's apparitions in the Portuguese village of Fatima. In this way, the two anniversaries were combined.

At the end of the 18th century, a Royal Edict banned Catholicism from Vietnam, beginning with fierce persecution of the faithful. The Virgin Mary appeared for the first time in 1798 to comfort a group of Vietnamese Catholics who had fled to the forest. Later, the place became an important pilgrimage destination and a Marian shrine was built.

Last August 14, Msgr. Dominic Nguyễn Văn Mạnh, a new auxiliary bishop of of Đà Lạt Diocese, met more than 1000 children at the La Vang sanctuary for a meeting on Fatima's centenary. The bishop told them: "Today we come to Our Lady of La Vang. We are not like the tourists who come here to find new things and to satisfy their curiosity. When you come on pilgrimage to the Holy Shrine of La Vang, each of us tries to think and reflect on the recommendations of Our Lady. Here she taught us 200 years ago, as she did at Fatima 100 years ago. "

Ms. A Lir, of the parish of Đăk Mút (diocese of Kontum), told to a local Catholic site: "Our group arrived yesterday at the sanctuary of La Vang. We tried to repair from rain and lightning. We are all very happy. This is the first time I come to La Vang. I just want my children to follow Jesus. "

Joseph, a parishioner of the parish of Gia Hưng of Vinh diocese, said, "I have five children. My wife is ill. She wanted to come to La Vang but could not. I do not have money to stay in a motel, residence or hotel. However, poor people can stay in the area around the square. I came for the pilgrimage, sleeping on the ground is just a small sacrifice. When I come here, I pray to Our Lady.

In this way or in another, I'm sure the Virgin Mother gives a lot of blessings to my family, my children, and my wife."

Msgr Dominic Nguyễn Văn Mạnh exhorted those present: "We are here, first of all, to meet Our Lady, join the pilgrims, to praise and glorify Our Lady on the 31st La Vang pilgrimage. We know that Our Lady of La Vang is always present and accompanying us. Here we meet her in a more special way, because in this place she promised, 'My children, what you have asked me I have granted you, and from now on anyone who comes here to pray to me will be heard' ".

The cult for Our Lady of La Vang has spread not only among Catholics, but also among the faithful of other religions, including Buddhists and Protestants, who pray to the Virgin Mary for special graces.