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Mass for Ngo Dinh Diem

HONG KONG (SE): A group of around 60 people gathered around the grave of the late president of what was known as the Republic of Vietnam, or South Vietnam in popular parlance, Ngo Dinh Diem, near Ho Chi Minh City, on November 2, the 50th anniversary of his abduction and death, to offer a Mass for patriots.

AsiaNews reported that it is the first time since 1975 that a quasi-official ceremony had been held to express respect and gratitude towards patriots who sacrificed their lives for their country.

Father Le Thanh Ngoc described Diem as a “lover of truth, eager to bring his contribution to the country, ready to endure suffering, loneliness and ostracism from a high sense of duty.”

Phuong Uyen, who has been on trial for subversion of state authority, read some passages during the Mass.

Diem was born into an aristocratic mandarin family, which had been Catholic since the 1600s. 

His father had seriously considered becoming a priest. Diem was baptised with the name Jean-Baptiste.

Diem became president in 1956 and at first was seen as a useful allay by the United States of America (US).

However, things soured, as he turned out to be a lot more interested in protecting the sovereignty of his own land and insuring the social progress of his people than promoting the US cause.

Diem also alienated many groups, especially the Buddhist majority, who saw the Catholic president as overly protective of his own minority group.

It is believed that the US paid some generals in the South Vietnamese Army to get him out of the president’s house. He was kidnapped with his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, and the two were assassinated.

Why the Mass was allowed to happen remains a mystery, as up until now the government has not even allowed his name to be inscribed on his tombstone.

However, as Fullbright scholar, Heather Marie Stur, points out in a November 7 article, “One of the challenges in reunion after a civil war is figuring out how the nation will remember winners and losers.”


Father Peter Nguyen Van Hung told the Sunday Examiner from his home in Taipei that he thinks the Redemptorist priests are courageous to have organised the event, but at the same time added, “People are less frightened to speak out in Vietnam today. It is a very significant change.”

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