Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - In a period of intense "internal and external" pressure and difficulties within the Church in Vietnam, the faithful seek the guidance of "good shepherds" who know how to build confidence among people, promote the values of "charity and justice” and protect the right to religious freedom. This is the conclusion of a survey carried out among seventy parishioners of former Saigon. Vietnamese Catholics denounce a certain lack of communion between faithful and some "confusion" or "approximations" in carrying out pastoral and social relations.
A survey conducted last May 21 in some parishes in Ho Chi Minh City showed that Catholics have “fumbling” relations amongst each other and are in need of the guidance of "good shepherds". Respect and trust are lacking, say the respondents, and each individual maintains a "mechanism of self-protection" because there is "mutual distrust". The difficulties and pressures "from outside", the rigid rules imposed on religion by the Communist government contribute to exacerbate the difficulties.
Speaking to AsiaNews Fr Vincent Pham Trung Than, provincial superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam, stressed the importance "of communion among the faithful." The priest invites the shepherds to "spread the social teachings of the Catholic Church" such as the Compendium of Social Doctrine. He adds that awareness of human dignity, salvation in God, the values of justice and charity for all, also need to be strengthened.
Fr. Vincent also recalls the age-old question of land ownership and property of the Catholic Church. These problems, he said, cause corruption, social injustice and oppression. He urges the authorities to review the laws on land to meet the expectations of the people, while the government must return the property belonging to the Church or clarify the terms of rent and use. The Redemptorist priest also denounces the perpetration of a series of injustices on some people, especially Christians, who are subjected to "physical and mental" violence. For this we need to pray and follow God's Word, to bring aid and comfort to those who suffer and are persecuted. The work of the Redemptorists, he adds, is aimed in particular at the poor, the disabled and migrants.
He then recalls the work of the Church before 1975, when North Vietnam defeated the South Vietnamese government, allies of the Americans and proceeded to the reunification of the country, under the umbrella of a communist regime. In the past, religions contributed in education, public healthcare, in social work. After 1975 the government has prevented church activities in these areas, causing suffering and injustice for much of the population.
"As a Vietnamese Church - said Father Vincent - we must look at positive examples, represented by Pope John Paul II and Cardinal FrançoisXavier Nguyen Van Thuan. Pope John Paul II said of him: "A life spent in consistent and heroic adhesion to his vocation."