The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam (CBCV) has just announced that the 30th anniversary of the canonisation of 117 martyrs will be celebrated starting on June 19 until November 24.
“During their ad limina in March, Vietnamese bishops asked The Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura for the permission to hold a Jubilee on the occasion of 30th Year of the canonisation of 117 martyrs.” Their request “has been approved,” said Archbishop Giuse (Joseph) Nguyễn Chí Linh, archbishop of Huế, and president of the Vietnamese Bishops’ Conference.
Saint Pope John Paul II beatified the 117 martyrs on June 19, 1988 in St. Peter’s Square. The group included 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spanish and 10 French. Up to that time, that was the single largest number of martyrs beatified at a single occasion, surpassing the 103 Korean martyrs beatified in Korea in 1984. This record was only broken when the Polish pope beatified 120 Chinese martyrs in 2000.
Anti-Christian persecution broke out almost immediately when the Gospel was proclaimed in Vietnam in the mid-16th century. However, it reached a peak under the Nguyễn Dynasty – Vietnam’s last ruling family. Their rule lasted a total of 143 years, beginning in 1802, when Emperor Gia Long ascended to the throne after defeating the Tây Sơn dynasty. During this period, more than 300,000 Vietnamese Catholics were killed.
A gradual lessening of persecution occurred when the French occupied the whole of the country by 1886. But waves of more terrible persecution occurred again during the communist era. So far, the Church in Vietnam has not yet been able to count the exact number of people killed, and the number of people imprisoned for their beliefs during the current communist era, not to mention the large number of Catholics discriminated and marginalised because of their faith.
The Jubilee’s opening ceremonies will take place at three separate historical sites in three ecclesiastical provinces: Hà Nội, Huế and Sàigòn.
The opening ceremony for the Archdiocese of Hanoi and nine dioceses in the northern Vietnam will take place in the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Sở Kiện, Hà Nam Province. The Basilica was built 135 years ago in the hometown of two martyrs – Father Peter Truong Van Thi and Brother Peter Truong Van Duong.
Our Lady of La Vang Pilgrimage Centre in Quảng Trị Province – where Our Lady appeared to console the faithful who had fled to the jungle to avoid waves of persecution 220 years ago – was chosen to host the opening ceremony for the Archdiocese of Huế and the five dioceses in central Vietnam.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyễn called on believers to “live the martyr’s spirit” in today’s environment and bear witness to God and the Gospel. The prelate encourages them to visit people living in distress, illness, imprisonment, old age, loneliness, disability as part of a pilgrimage to Christ.