Vietnam: a year on participation in the life of the Church in communion with the Synod
On the eve of the Assembly that opens in Rome and where two of its own bishops will also be present, the Catholic Church in Vietnam sent a message to the faithful indicating the theme of enhancing the mission of the laity in 2024. "In Vietnam, due to historical circumstances, combined with difficult living conditions and a misunderstanding of doctrine, some live their faith passively. But the heritage of faith transmitted by the blood of the martyrs is entrusted to each of us".
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - We are now on the eve of the opening of the Synod in Rome on 4 October. And among the most significant experiences in Asia in the path desired by Pope Francis in 2021 and which will continue throughout next year, that of the Church of Vietnam deserves to be highlighted. Two Vietnamese bishops will be present at the Assembly: Msgr. Joseph Đo Manh Hung, 65 years old, bishop of Phan Thiêt on the southern coast of the country since 2019 and secretary of the Episcopal Conference, and Msgr. Louis Nguyen Anh Tuan, 63 years old, bishop of Hà Tinh for a few months, in what at the time of the conflict were the northern provinces.
Unlike the two Chinese bishops who will arrive in Rome without having so far been able to take part in the synodal process with the other dioceses of the world, the Church of Vietnam has long been an active part in the common path of the Catholic Churches of Asia with an eye that also goes beyond its borders. It then becomes interesting to point out that - at the end of its last meeting, held in recent days in Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) - the Episcopal Conference wanted to spread a message aimed at all the Vietnamese faithful on the experience of the Synod. A text which recalls that - as had already been announced - the entire pastoral year 2024 in Vietnam will be dedicated to the theme "Promoting participation in the life of the Church", therefore placing itself precisely in the wavelength indicated by Pope Francis with the synodal path.
As the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) Msgr. writes in the message. Joseph Nguyen Nang, president of the Episcopal Conference, and the mgr himself. Joseph Đo Manh Hung, as secretary, the Vietnamese Church wants to seize the opportunity of the Synod for a qualitative leap in the participation of all the people of God in the life of the communities. “In Vietnam - they write - due to historical circumstances, combined with difficult living conditions and an erroneous understanding of doctrine, some parishioners live their faith passively and are indifferent to the activities of the local community. For them the life of faith consists only in the observance of the Sunday precept. Therefore, promoting participation in the life and mission of the Church in Vietnam is an urgent need."
They ask priests to "be aware that the ministerial priesthood is received to serve the community priesthood due to Baptism. Therefore - write the Vietnamese bishops quoting chapter 37 of the constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council - ordained pastors must recognize and promote the dignity and responsibility of the laity in the Church. They must be ready to listen to their opinions, trust them in the service of the Church, give them freedom and power to act, encourage them and enable them to undertake what they have started."
Priests are invited to "organize courses for the formation of lay people, helping them to correctly understand the roles and duties of their vocation and mission in the Church", without claiming to "replace their parishioners". The invitation is addressed to men and women religious to live the three evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity and obedience) "as signs of the presence of the Kingdom in the midst of the earth, engaging in all areas of society".
Vietnamese lay people themselves are asked to be aware of their mission and their role in the Church. “Be enthusiastic about participating and collaborating closely with priests to build the Church and carry out our mission of bearing witness to the Lord with our lives,” the bishops write. “In particular - they add - the members of the Parish Pastoral Council, the catechists, the extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, those in charge of the Liturgy, the members of associations and movements, must have an interior life and study the teaching of the Church, to participate to activities with openness to the Spirit, with active zeal but always in harmonious communion with the priests, religious and the community".
“The heritage of faith of over 400 years of evangelization in Vietnam is entrusted to us - the message continues -. This legacy was achieved with the toil of our predecessors and the blood of martyrs. We have a duty to preserve it and make it grow, so that we can pass it on to future generations. May you join us, in accordance with the life and ability of God, to build the Church we desire."
"In 2023," the bishops concluded, "the Catholic Church in Vietnam will celebrate the 35th anniversary of the canonisation of the martyrs (1988-2023). It is an opportunity to learn about the history of the proclamation of the Gospel in Vietnam, the heroic example of our predecessors, thanks to which we give thanks to God, we vow to continue the work of our predecessors, we write on the heroic pages of the history of the Church, we commit ourselves to witness to God and to contribute to the building of a peaceful and prosperous homeland".
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