Vietnamese Catholics want justice for martyred Fr Thanh (and forgiveness)
The Dominican superior is demanding answers, but pledges Christian forgiveness for the murderer. He wants the law to be implemented, not revenge. The priest's grave has become a destination for pilgrimage and prayers for Catholics, Buddhists and atheists. A group of lawyers is helping the family.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Fr Giuse (Joseph) Trần Ngọc Thanh, a Dominican clergyman, was killed on 29 January, on the eve of Lunar New Year celebrations.
Following his death, Vietnamese Catholics are demanding justice and want to know why he was murdered. They also seek forgiveness for his murderer because, as the Gospel of Christ teaches, one does not react with violence to violent crimes, however brutal.
The faithful are still shaken by the violent death of the young priest who was killed while performing the sacrament of confession and are eager to see some light shed on the murky details surrounding it.
Since he was buried, his grave has become a place of pilgrimage, by Christians and others, coming to pay their respect to his memory.
Last Monday, Fr Toma Aquino Nguyễn Trường Tam, Dominican provincial superior, expressed support for the priest's relatives, and met with the group of lawyers helping them.
Dominican leaders, together with the Diocese of Kontum, are considering appointing a consultant tasked with preparing a brief for the investigators in charge of the case.
Ordained in 2018, the dead clergyman travelled to Đắk Mót parish the following year where he took up the post of deputy vicar.
His funeral was held on 31 January at St Martin’s monastery in Biên Hòa, Đồng Nai province, while his remains were buried on the grounds of the local Dominican monastery.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Toma Aquino stresses that the order wants the investigation into the priest’s murder to be completely transparent, hoping that “an open trial will soon get underway.”
At the same time, he wants justice and Vietnam’s law to be enforced in a “Catholic spirit" because "we do not want revenge" or “another person's blood" nor material compensation.
“We just want to know the reasons that led the killer to take a knife; the goal is to prevent further violence. We shall all forgive him.”
Remembering the “kind, humble, diligent, saintly committed” spirit of the murdered priest, the Dominican Father said they received many messages of condolence and closeness from other religious orders. In his view, “Fr Thanh’s “death was martyrdom.”
The slain clergyman’s body now lies near the statue of the Virgin Mary, on a hill, with a non-stop flow of people, Catholics and non-Catholics, who light incense and pray at his grave.
“I was moved and anxious to pray at the grave of Fr Thanh,” said Joseph Phan, a Catholic from Ho Chi Minh City, speaking to AsiaNews. “Many people are queuing, in silence,” he explained. “Everyone seems to feel the love and courage of the missionary from the (Central) Highlands.”
People of other or no faith have also come to pray and lay flowers. One bunch carried a note that said: “God is love. I am an atheist, but I'm here to pay homage to Fr Joseph.”
Abroad, hundreds of Buddhist monks also prayed for his soul, in accordance with Buddhist practice, in front of the altar. A picture of the prayer posted online went immediately viral, touching many Christians and non-Christians.