The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam has just announced that the 30th anniversary of the canonization of 117 Vietnamese martyrs will be celebrated starting on 19 June until 24 November 2018, the feast day of the martyrs.
As part of the Jubilee celebrations, the bishops will encourage the faithful to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land; in particular, those who live abroad and who, for various reasons, cannot return to Vietnam. For their part, the prelates plan to go to the Holy Land for two special events.
The first one will be the erection of the statue of Our Lady of La Vang in the garden of the Church of Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant, at 756 meters above sea level, on the north-western edge of the city of Abu Gosh (central Israel).
On 18 October, Mgr Giuse (Joseph) Nguyễn Chí Linh, archbishop of Huế and president of the Bishops’ Conference, will preside over the unveiling of the statue.
La Vang, in Quảng Trị province, is where Our Lady appeared 220 years ago to console the faithful who had fled into the jungle to escape waves of persecution.
The second event in the Holy Land will take place the following day, 19 October, when Mgr Nguyễn will celebrate Mass in the Church of the Beatitudes along with other bishops from Vietnam and the Diaspora. It will be an opportunity for him to bless a steel inscribed with the eight Beatitudes in Vietnamese.
Fr. Paul Văn Chi, from the archdiocese of Sydney, Australia, welcomes the initiative. To that end, he wants to organise a group of pilgrims from Australia to travel to Jerusalem for the event.
For him, “What better place to meditate about the testimonies of the martyrs, if not the same places where the memory of our redemption has been kept alive for more than 2,000 years.”
Fr. Anthony Nguyễn Hữu Quảng, a Salesian in Melbourne, has visited Israel so many times that he cannot remember the number.
“Walking in the footsteps of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the disciples helps us deepen our faith and understand the context in which Christians live in the Holy Land today,” he said.
“Like those who were forced to leave behind everything to seek freedom and a life of dignity, we understand clearly the outcry of our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land who have to continue to suffer difficulties, challenges, and insecurity,” he said.
“Let us show them concretely our closeness. Pilgrimages are a form of sustenance for the survival of thousands of Christian families,” he added.
“It would be wonderful if we could organize a large pilgrimage of Catholics from Vietnam and the Diaspora,” said Archbishop Nguyễn Chí Linh.
At present, many are worried because of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially the latest protests in Gaza and the West Bank following US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Conflict notwithstanding, several groups of Vietnamese Catholics in the United States and Australia say they will go ahead with plans for the pilgrimage to the Holy Land for this occasion.