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Vietnam celebrates canonisation of martyrs

HANOI (UCAN): Some 20,000 Catholics from the Archdiocese of Hanoi, along with nine dioceses in northern Vietnam, braved the scorching heat to attend a special Mass on June 19 in Ha Nam province to open a jubilee year to mark the 30th anniversary of the canonisation of 117 Vietnamese martyrs.
The opening ceremony was held at the Martyrs Pilgrimage Centre of So Kien, which includes the 135-year-old Minor Basilica of Immaculate Conception of Mary in Ha Nam province.
The centre contains the remains of many martyrs, plus ropes, chains, along with the pillories and stocks used to torture them.
Peter Cardinal Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, concelebrated with 13 bishops and 300 priests. The stage was decorated with a big picture of Vietnamese martyrs and flowers.
“Today we can express our great and real joy to Vietnamese martyrs who really died with Jesus and live with him in glory and happiness. Consequently, the Catholic Church in Vietnam bears blossoms and fruits in abundance,” Bishop Cosma Hoang Van Dat of Bac Ninh, said in his homily.
Bishop Hoang said that within 50 years from when foreign missionaries began proclaiming the Good News to the country nearly 500 years ago, some 300,000 people embraced the new religion. They did this despite severe persecution by the authorities.
Among the martyrs is Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, a young catechist, who died for his faith in the ancient town of Hoi An in 1644.
While Pope St. John Paul II canonised 117 martyrs in 1988, there were many more Vietnamese who bore witness to and died for their Catholic faith, said Bishop Hoang.
He said if they dedicated a day to tell the story of each martyr it would take 365 years to tell them all.
Bishop Hoang said the martyrs made great contributions to the nation’s culture, building values of justice, humanity and love, creating the national language and offering education and charitable care to society.
“Today we are invited to follow martyrs’ examples in new situations and new ways to bring justice and charity to other people, and bear witness to God in our love care and work,” Bishop Hoang told the gathering.
He also urged them to “cooperate with people of goodwill regardless of their faiths, social positions and political views, to consolidate the civilisation of love and life in our nation.”
Prior the ceremony, Catholics dressed in costumes said prayers, sang hymns and carried the cranium of one martyr, Father Peter Truong Van Thi, and remains other martyrs in a procession around the pilgrimage centre. They also danced and offered flowers to martyrs.
Joseph Nguyen Van Chien, from Yen Bai province, said he is proud of those Catholics who sacrificed themselves for the sake of spreading the Good News.
“The ceremony helps strengthen our faith and encourages us to bravely live out our faith in the society without fear,” the 40-year-old father of two said.
Nguyen said this is the first time in 30 years that the local Catholic Church has publicly celebrated the anniversary of the canonisation of the martyrs.
In 1988, no Catholics from Vietnam were allowed to attend the canonisation in Rome because the government objected. The state also launched a hostile propaganda campaign saying that the martyrs had worked with foreign forces to invade the country.
“Today we all know the truth of the canonisation of Vietnamese martyrs. We see the anniversary as the real canonisation ceremony,” he said.

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