After war, decades of suppression, church activities have gradually been restored.
A Chrism Mass in Vietnam’s largest diocese has inspired thousands of Catholics, many of whom attended the special priests’ service for the first time.
Some 120 priests concelebrated the Chrism Mass, presided over by Bishop John Mary Vu Tat, at Yen Bai church in Hung Hoa Diocese. Some 4,000 Catholics attended the service and many more watched it broadcast.
“I would like to invite all you to rekindle and renew your enthusiasm for service, proclaim the Good News, forgive sinners, visit people on the peripheries and strengthen your faith,” Auxiliary Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long of Hung Hoa told the priests.
Father Joseph Nguyen Dinh Tuyen, pastor of 119-year-old Yen Bai parish, said this was the first time local Catholics attended the Chrism Mass since they embraced Catholicism in the 19th century. Some 19 parishes in Yen Bai province serve 40,000 Catholics.
Father Tuyen said local church facilities were destroyed in wars, church properties were taken over and many of the faithful had to flee when religious activities were banned. Church activities have gradually been restored since the late 1990s when the government started to ease its religious policies.
“This is the first time in our life we have attended the Chrism Mass joined by so many priests. The Mass helps deepen our faith because we had no priests for a long time,” said Joseph Le Toan, a 77-year-old parishioner.
Hung Hoa Diocese has an estimated 240,000 Catholics who are served by 114 priests.