04/03/2018, 13.29
VIETNAM
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Former South Vietnamese general and prime minister receives the baptism in the Catholic Church

by J.B. An Dang

Trần Thiện Khiêm was one of the leading figures in the Vietnam war. During the Sixties he was involved in several coups d'état. He became prime minister in 1969 and remained in office until one month before the fall of Saigon. The Vietnamese Church is delighted to see the growing interest among the country’s intellectuals and celebrities.

San José (AsiaNews) –  Trần Thiện Khiêm (pictured), a former general and prime minister of the Republic of (South) Vietnam, received the baptism in California (United States).

The ceremony ended decades of rumours according to which he was Christian during the Vietnam War, which ended with the defeat of the South.

On 25 March, Palm Sunday, Fr Lê Trung Tướng, parish priest of St Elizabeth, Milpitas (San José) celebrated the baptism of the former Prime Minister.

At the age of 93, General Trần Thiện Khiêm decided to join the Catholic Church, choosing Saint Paul as his patron saint.

Born on 15 December 1925, he was a prominent figure during the war that devastated his country.

During the Sixties he was involved in a number of coups. In November 1960, General Trần helped Catholic president Ngô Đình Diệm avert a coup. However, three years later he took part in the coup that overthrew and murdered Diệm himself, who had rewarded him with various promotions.

Following a series of plots, Khiêm became Prime Minister of the Republic of Vietnam in 1969 and remained in office until March 1975, a month before the fall of Saigon.

In an apparent attempt to slander Catholics, Communists and anti-Catholics suggested for years that Khiêm was a devout Catholic who could not profess his religion in public but was willing to betray his co-religionists.

The former prime minister told journalists that during the war he followed the traditional Vietnamese beliefs, which promoted ancestor worship.

He said that becoming a Catholic was one of the most profound and joyful experiences of his life, and that he himself had decided to join the Church after studying Catholicism for a long time and reflected on what had happened during his life.

The Church in Vietnam is delighted to see the growing interest among the country’s intellectuals and celebrities.

More and more people are beginning to study Catholicism and joining the Church, inspired by the testimonies of faith of priests and lay people, who dare to challenge the regime in favour of the poor and defenceless in a society marked by so much injustice, deprivation and exclusion.

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