Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012 Litany Lane Blog: Diaspora, John 6:,41-51, Vietnamese Martyrs , Psalm 33, History of Catholicism Vietnam

Sunday, August 12, 2012
Diaspora, John 6:,41-51, Vietnamese Martyrs , Psalm 33,History of Catholicism Vietnam

Good Day Bloggers! 
Wishing everyone a Blessed Week! 

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Something Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7..

We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift knowledge and free will as well, make the most of it. Life on earth is a stepping to our eternal home in Heaven. Its your choice whether to rise towards eternal light or lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to Heaven is our Soul, our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012




Today's Word:  Diaspora    di·as·po·ra  [dahy-as-per-uh]

Origin:  1875–80;  < Greek diasporá  a dispersion. See dia-, spore

1. the scattering of the Jews to countries outside of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity.
2. the body of Jews living in countries outside Israel.
3. such countries collectively: the return of the Jews from the Diaspora.
4. any group migration or flight from a country or region. dispersion, dissemination, migration, displacement, scattering. return.
5. any group that has been dispersed outside its traditional homeland, especially involuntarily, as Africans during the trans-Atlantic slave trade.


Today's Gospel Reading - John 6: 41-51

Lectio: 19th Sunday of ordinary time (B)

Today's Gospel:    John 6: 41-51

41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." 42 They said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" 43 Jesus answered them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46 Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

b) A key to the reading:

The sixth chapter of John's Gospel presents a entire picture that develops around the Paschal theme and, analogously with what precedes it, unfolds through the telling of a miracle (5:1-9a 6:1-15) followed by a discourse (5:16-47; 6:22-59). The chapter relates that part of Jesus' activity in Galilee, precisely at its most sublime moment, when Jesus reveals himself as bread of life to be believed in and eaten in order to be saved. In vv. 1-15 we find the great sign of the multiplication of the loaves whose significance is revealed in the discourse of the following day in vv. 26-59: the gift of bread to satisfy the hunger of the people prepares the way for the words concerning the bread of eternal life. Inserted, vv. 16-21, we find the story of Jesus walking on the water. In vv. 60-71 Jesus, knowing their lack of faith (vv. 60-66) and trying to encourage their faith (vv. 66-71), invites the twelve disciples to make up their minds. The whole discourse on the bread of life (6: 25-71) presents parallels with some Hebrew texts, especially with Philon.

c) A moment of silence....

a) A few questions:

- They murmured at him: how many are the voices that murmur against God?
- I am the bread which has come down from heaven: where do we acquire the bread that we eat every day?
- No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him: does the Father draw us or do we drag our feet behind him criticising that which he says to us in our daily life?
- If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever: we nourish ourselves with the Word of God and the broken Bread once a week or even every day… why is it that eternal life is not evident in our words and our human experience?

b) A key to the reading:

To murmur. What better way is there for us not to live in depth that which the Lord asks of us? There are thousands of plausible reasons… thousands of valid justifications… thousands of licit motives… for us not to swallow a Word that defies every reason, every justification, every motivation to allow new echoes to resonate from a not so distant heaven that dwells in our hearts

v. 41. The Jews murmured at him because he had said: "I am the bread which came down from heaven". Jesus had just said: I am the bread of life (v. 35) and I have come down from heaven (v. 38) and this provokes dissent among the crowd. The term Jews is a theological one in John and may be thought of as synonymous with unbelievers. In truth these were Galileans who were called Jews because they murmured at Christ whose words disturbed their usual categories. The Jews were familiar with the term bread come down from heaven. The children of Israel knew the bread of God, the manna, which had satisfied their hunger in the desert and had given security to a precarious journey whose horizons were uncertain. Christ, manna for humankind who in the desert of an unsatisfied hunger invokes heaven to sustain it on its journey. This is the only bread that satisfies hunger. The words of the Jews are an objection to the person of Jesus and also an occasion to introduce the theme of unbelief. In other passages the people "whisper" about Jesus (7:12, 32), but in this chapter they "murmur" about what he says, about his words. This murmuring puts an emphasis on their unbelief and incomprehension.

v. 42. "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph whose father and mother we know? How does he now say: I have come down from heaven?". This is subtle irony. The unbelievers know the earthly origins of the Christ, they know for certain the son of Joseph, but not the son of God. Only those who believe know his transcendental origin by the direct intervention of God in the Virgin. The passage goes from material language, bread made from water and flour, to a spiritual language, bread for the human soul. As once the people in the desert did, the Jews murmur: they do not understand the origin of Jesus' gift: and as once their forbears refused the manna because it was too light, so now the descendants refuse the Word made flesh, bread come down from heaven, because of its earthly origin. The Jews, from all that Jesus said, only take note that he had said: I have come down from heaven (v. 38). Yet this is that which gives substance to all that was said before about being the bread of life (v. 35). The question: Is not this… is asked in a context of surprise in the Synoptic Gospels. In Matthew and Luke, through the story of Jesus' childhood, the reader has already been told of the virginal conception of Jesus. In John, the Galileans are confronted with someone who claims to have come down from heaven without any previous discussion as to his human condition. Son of Joseph means that Jesus is a man like all other men (cfr. 1,45).

v. 43-44. Jesus answered them: "Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day". Jesus does not seem to dwell on his divine origin but stresses that only those drawn by the Father can come to him. Faith then is a gift of God and depends on a person's openness and ability to listen… but what does it mean to say the Father draws? Is not a person free on this journey? The attraction is simply the desire written in the tablets of flesh borne in the heart of every person. Thus complete freedom exists in a spontaneous clinging to the source of one's being. Life can only attract life, only death cannot attract.

v. 45. It is written in the prophets: "And they shall all be taught by God. Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to me". The rest of the narrative follows a very precise order. These words are not an invitation, but a command. The creative Word of God, who called into existence from nothing light and all other creatures, now calls his own likeness to participate in the new creation. The consequence does not flow from an autonomous and personal decision, but from meeting with the person of Jesus and his call. It is a grace event, not a human choice. Jesus does not wait for a free decision, but calls with divine authority as God called the prophets in the Old Testament. It is not the disciples who choose the Master as was the case with rabbis at the time, but the Master who chooses the disciples as beneficiaries of God's inheritance, which is much greater than any doctrine or teaching. The call implies the giving up of family, profession, a complete change of one's way of life in order to cling to a way of life that leaves no space for self-centredness. The disciples are people of the kingdom. The call to become disciples of Jesus is an "eschatological call". The words of the Babylonian prophet of the exile says: "and all her children (Jerusalem's) shall be" - referring to the Jews. The use of: "all shall be" is an expression of the universality of salvation whose fulfilment is Jesus.

v. 46. Not that any one has seen the Father, except him who comes from God, he has seen the Father. Only Jesus, who is from God, has seen the Father and can reveal him definitively. People are called to come from God. Knowledge of the Father is not a conquest, it is an origin. The movement is not external. If I look for an external origin I can say that I have a father and mother, a creature of the created world. If I look for a deeper origin of my essential being I can say that I come from the Father, Creator of all life.

v. 47. Truly, truly, I say to you: He who believes has eternal life. To believe in the words of Jesus, in his revelation, is a condition for obtaining eternal life and to be able to be "taught by the Father". I believe, I lean on a rock. The strength is not within my creature limitations, nor in the realisation of my creature efforts to attain perfection. All is firm in Him who has no temporal attachments. How can a creature lean on itself when it is not master of one single instant of its life?

v. 48. I am the bread of life. Again the theme of the bread of life is presented together with that of faith and of eternal life. Jesus is the true bread of life. This verse is connected with verse 51 "I am the living bread". Only he who eats this bread, he who assimilates Jesus' revelation as vital bread, will be able to live.

vv. 49-50. Your Fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died: this is the bread which comes down from heaven that a man may eat of it and not die. The bread come down from heaven is contrasted with the manna that fed their fathers but not preserved them from death. This bread that gives life without end and comes from on high is the incarnate Word of God. The Eucharistic theme, already implied in some expressions, now becomes central. Earthly death does not contradict this experience of life if one walks along transcendental ways. The limitation is no limitation for those who eat of Him.

vv. 51. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.". The "flesh" of Jesus is the vital food for the believer. The word flesh (sàrx), which in the Bible indicates the fragile reality of the human person before the mystery of God, now refers to the body of Christ immolated on the cross and to the human reality of the Word of God. It is no longer a metaphorical bread of life, it is the revelation of Jesus because the bread is the very flesh of the Son. For the life of the world means in favour of and emphasises the sacrificial dimension of Christ because for the world expresses the salvation which flows from that dimension.

c) Reflection:

Murmur. If our murmuring were like a soft breeze, it would act as a harmonious basis for the eternal words that become our flesh: I am the living Bread that has come down from heaven. What a surprise that would be, knowing that this eternal Bread is not a stranger, but Jesus, the son of Joseph, a man whose father and mother we know. We eat and we are assumed, because those who eat of this bread will live for ever. This is a bread that is born of the love of the Father. We are invited to listen and learn from Him on the trajectory of attraction, on that peak of faith that allows us to see. Bread with bread, Flesh with flesh. Only He who comes from God has seen the Father. And when we have made of our flesh the table of the living Bread, then we shall have seen the Father. Desert and death, heaven and life. A sweet marriage fulfilled in every Eucharist… on every altar, on the altar of the heart where the life of the divine Breath consumes the disfigured lineaments of a lost person

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


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Saint of the Day:  Vietnamese Martyrs

Feast Day: August 12
Died: 1838
Patron Saint of : Vietnam

In honor of 300,000 Vietnamese Martyrs
The Vietnamese Martyrs, also known as the Martyrs of Tonkin, Martyrs of Annam (Vietnamese: Các Thánh Tử đạo Việt Nam), Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions (Anrê Dũng-Lạc và Các bạn tử đạo), or Martyrs of Indochina, are saints on the Roman Catholic calendar of saints canonized by Pope John Paul II. 

On June 19, 1988, thousands of Overseas Vietnamese worldwide gathered at the Vatican for the Celebration of the Canonization of 117 Vietnamese Martyrs, an event chaired by Monsignor Tran Van Hoai. Their memorial is 24 November (although several of these saints have another memorial, as they were beatified and on the calendar prior to the canonization of the group).



The Vatican estimates the number of Vietnamese martyrs at between 130,000 and 300,000. John Paul II decided to canonize those whose names are known and unknown, giving them a single feast day.

The Vietnamese Martyrs fall into several groupings, those of the Dominican and Jesuit missionary era of the 17th century, those killed in the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and those martyred during the Communist purges of the 20th century. A representative sample of only 117 martyrs — including 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spanish Dominicans, and 10 French members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society (Missions Etrangères de Paris (MEP)) — were beatified on four separate occasions: 64 by Pope Leo XIII on May 27, 1900, eight by Pope Pius X on May 20, 1906, 20 by Pope Pius X on May 2, 1909, 25 by Pope Pius XII on April 29, 1951. All these 117 Vietnamese Martyrs were canonized on June 19, 1988. A young Vietnamese Martyr, Andrew Phú Yên, was beatified in March, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Vietnamese martyrs 18 December 1838.

The tortures these individuals underwent are considered by the Vatican to be among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom. The torturers hacked off limbs joint by joint, tore flesh with red hot tongs, and used drugs to enslave the minds of the victims. Christians at the time were branded on the face with the words "ta dao" (左道, lit. "Left (Perverse) religion")  and families and villages which subscribed to Christianity were obliterated.

The letters and example of Théophane Venard inspired the young St. Theresa of Lisieux to volunteer for the Carmelite nunnery at Hanoi, though she ultimately contracted tuberculosis and could not go. In 1865 Vénard's body was transferred to his Congregation's church in Paris, but his head remains in Vietnam.

There are several Catholic parishes in the United States, Canada, and elsewhere dedicated to the Martyrs of Vietnam (Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Parishes), one of which located just outside of Washington, DC. Others can be found in Austin, TX, Denver, San Antonio, Texas and Richmond, Virginia. There are also churches named after individual saints, such as St. Philippe Minh Church in Saint Boniface, Manitoba.

The Nguyen Campaign against Catholicism in the 19th century

The Catholic Church in Vietnam was devastated during the Tay Son rebellion in the late 18th century. During the turmoil, the missions revived, however, as a result of cooperation between the French Vicar Apostolic Pigneaux de Behaine and Nguyen Anh. After Nguyen's victory in 1802, in gratitude to assistance received, he ensured protection to missionary activities. However, only a few years into the new emperor's reign, there was growing antipathy among officials against Catholicism and missionaries reported that it was purely for political reasons that their presence was tolerated. Tolerance continued until the death of the emperor and the new emperor Minh Mang succeeding to the throne in 1820.

Converts began to be harassed without official edicts in the late 1820s, by local governments. In 1831 the emperor passed new laws on regulations for religious groupings in Viet Nam, and Catholicism was then officially prohibited. In 1832, the first act occurred in a largely Catholic village near Hue, with the entire community being incarcerated and sent into exile in Cambodia. In January 1833 a new kingdom-wide edict was passed calling on Vietnamese subjects to reject the religion of Jesus and required suspected Catholics to demonstrate their renunciation by walking on a wooden cross. Actual violence against Catholics, however, did not occur until the Lê Văn Khôi revolt.
During the rebellion, a young French missionary priest named Joseph Marchand was living in sickness in the rebel Gia Dinh citadel. In October 1833, an officer of the emperor reported to the court that a foreign Christian religious leader was present in the citadel. This news was used to justify the edicts against Catholicism, and led to the first executions of missionaries in over 40 years. The first executed was named Francois Gagelin. Marchand was captured and executed as a 'rebel leader' in 1835; he was put to death by "slicing".  Further repressive measures were introduced in the wake of this episode in 1836. Prior to 1836, village heads had only to simply report to local mandarins about how their subjects had recanted Catholicism; after 1836, officials could visit villages and force all the villagers to line up one by one to trample on a cross and if a community was suspected of harbouring a missionary, militia could block off the village gates and perform a rigorous search; if a missionary was found, collective punishment could be meted out to the entire community.

Missionaries and Catholic communities were able to sometimes escape this through bribery of officials; they were also sometimes victims of extortion attempts by people who demanded money under the threat that they would report the villages and missionaries to the authorities. The missionary Father Pierre Duclos said: "with gold bars murder and theft blossom among honest people."
The court became more aware of the problem of the failure to enforce the laws and applied greater pressure on its officials to act; officials that failed to act or those tho who were seen to be acting too slowly were demoted or removed from office (and sometimes were given severe corporal punishment), while those who attacked and killed the Christians could receive promotion or other rewards. Lower officials or younger family members of officials were sometimes tasked with secretly going through villages to report on hidden missionaries or Catholics that had not apostasied.

The first missionary arrested during this (and later executed) was the priest Jean Charles Cornay in 1837. A military campaign was conducted in Nam Dinh after letters were discovered in a shipwrecked vessel bound for Macao. Quang Tri and Quang Binh officials captured several priests along with the French missionary Bishop Pierre Dumoulin-Borie in 1838 (who was executed). The court translator, Francois Jaccard, a Catholic who had been kept as a prisoner for years and was extremely valuable to the court, was executed in late 1838; the official who was tasked with this execution, however, was almost immediately dismissed.

A priest, Father Ignacious Delgado, was captured in the village of Can Lao (Nam Dinh province), put in a cage on public display for ridicule and abuse, and died of hunger and exposure while waiting for execution; the officer and soldiers that captured him were greatly rewarded (about 3 kg of silver was distributed out to all of them), as were the villagers that had helped to turn him over to the authorities. The bishop Dominic Henares was found in Giao Thuy district of Nam Dinh (later executed); the villagers and soldiers that participated in his arrest were also greatly rewarded (about 3 kg of silver distributed). The priest, Father Joseph Fernandez, and a local priest, Nguyen Ba Tuan, were captured in Kim Song, Nam Dinh; the provincial officials were promoted, the peasants who turned them over were given about 3 kg of silver and other rewards were distributed. In July 1838, a demoted governor attempting to win back his place did so successfully by capturing the priest Father Dang Dinh Vien in Yen Dung, Bac Ninh province. (Vien was executed). In 1839, the same official captured two more priests: Father Dinh Viet Du and Father Nguyen Van Xuyen (also both executed).

In Nhu Ly near Hue, an elderly catholic doctor named Simon Hoa was captured and executed. He had been sheltering a missionary named Charles Delamotte, whom the villagers had pleaded with him to send away. The village was also supposed to erect a shrine for the state-cult, which the doctor also opposed. His status and age protected him from being arrested until 1840, when he was put on trial and the judge pleaded (due to his status in Vietnamese society as both an elder and a doctor) with him to publicly recant; when he refused he was publicly executed.

A peculiar episode occurred in late 1839, when a village in Quang Ngai province called Phuoc Lam was victimized by four men who extorted cash from the villagers under threat of reporting the Christian presence to the authorities. The governor of the province had a Catholic nephew who told him about what happened, and the governor then found the four men (caught smoking opium) and had two executed as well as two exiled. When a Catholic lay leader then came to the governor to offer their gratitude (thus perhaps exposing what the governor had done), the governor told him that those who had come to die for their religion should now prepare themselves and leave something for their wives and children; when news of the whole episode came out, the governor was removed from office for incompetence.

Many officials preferred to avoid execution because of the threat to social order and harmony it represented, and resorted to use of threats or torture in order to force Catholics to recant. Many villagers were executed alongside priests according to mission reports. The emperor died in 1841, and this offered respite for Catholics. However, some persecution still continued after the new emperor took office. Catholic villages were forced to build shrines to the state cult. The missionary Father Pierre Duclos (quoted above) died in prison in after being captured on the Saigon river in June 1846. The boat he was traveling in, unfortunately contained the money that was set for the annual bribes of various officials (up to 1/3 of the annual donated French mission budget for Cochinchina was officially allocated to 'special needs') in order to prevent more arrests and persecutions of the converts; therefore, after his arrest, the officials then began wide searches and cracked down on the catholic communities in their jurisdictions. The amount of money that the French mission societies were able to raise, made the missionaries a lucrative target for officials that wanted cash, which could even surpass what the imperial court was offering in rewards. This created a cycle of extortion and bribery which lasted for years.


  • Courtesyof Wikipedia 
  • Les Missions Etrangères. Trois siecles et demi d'histoire et d'aventure en Asie Editions Perrin, 2008, ISBN 978-2-262-02571-7
  • "St. Andrew Dung-Lac & Martyrs", by Father Robert F. McNamara, Saints Alive and All God's Children Copyright 1980-2010 Rev. Robert F. McNamara and St. Thomas the Apostle Church.
  • "Vietnamese Martyr Teaches Quiet Lessons", By Judy Ball, An Web Site from the Franciscans and St. Anthony Messenger Press

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Today's Snippets:  Psalm 33, Roman Catholicism in Vietnam


Psalm 33

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle;
he put the deeps in storehouses.
The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nought;
he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the Lord stands for ever,
the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
on those who hope in his steadfast love,
that he may deliver their soul from death,
and keep them alive in famine.


Roman Catholicism in Vietnam

The Roman Catholic Church in Vietnam is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome. Vietnam has the fifth largest Catholic population in Asia, after the Philippines, India, China and Indonesia. According to Catholic Hierarchy Catalog, there are 5,658,000 Catholics in Vietnam, representing 6.87% of the total population.[1] There are 26 dioceses (including three archdioceses) with 2228 parishes and 2668 priests.


Alexander de Rhodes - missionary priest and creator of Vietnamese alphabet
The first Catholic missionaries visited Vietnam from Portugal at the beginning of the 16th century. The earliest missions did not bring very impressive results. Only after the arrival of Jesuits in the first decades of the 17th century did Christianity begin to establish its positions within the local population. Between 1627-30, Alexander de Rhodes and Antoine Marquez, priests from the French Province. 

In the 17th century, de Rhodes created an alphabet for the Vietnamese language, using the Latin script with added diacritic marks, based on the work of earlier Portuguese missionaries. This system continues to be used today, and is called Quốc Ngữ (literally "national language"). 

Pigneau de Behaine and the Nguyễn

The French missionary priest and Bishop of Adran Pigneau de Behaine played a key role in Vietnamese history towards the end of the 18th century. He had come to southern Vietnam to proselytise. In 1777, the Tây Sơn brothers killed the ruling Nguyễn lords, and Nguyễn Ánh was the most senior member of the family to have survived, and he fled into the Mekong Delta region in the far south, where he met Pigneau. Pigneau became Nguyễn Ánh's confidant. Pigneau reportedly hoped that by playing a substantial role in helping Ánh attain victory, he would be in position to gain important concessions for the Catholic Church in Vietnam and helping its expansion throughout Southeast Asia. From then on he became a politician and military strategist.

At one stage during the civil war, the Nguyễn were in trouble, so Pigneau was dispatched to seek French aid. He was able to recruit a band of French volunteers. Pigneau and other missionaries acted as business agents for Nguyễn Ánh, purchasing munitions and other military supplies. Pigneau also served as a military advisor and de facto foreign minister until his death in 1799. From 1794, Pigneau took part in all campaigns. He organized the defense of Diên Khánh when it was besieged by a numerically vastly superior Tây Sơn army in 1794. Upon Pigneau's death, Gia Long's funeral oration described the Frenchman as "the most illustrious foreigner ever to appear at the court of Cochinchina".

By 1802, when Nguyễn Ánh conquered all of Vietnam and declared himself Emperor Gia Long, the Roman Catholic Church in Vietnam had 3 dioceses as follows:
  • Diocese of Eastern North Vietnam: 140,000 members, 41 Vietnamese priests, 4 missionary priests and 1 bishop.
  • Diocese of Western North Vietnam: 120,000 members, 65 Vietnamese priests, 46 missionary priests and 1 bishop.
  • Diocese of Central and South Vietnam: 60,000 members, 15 Vietnamese priests, 5 missionary priests and 1 bishop.

Gia Long tolerated the Catholic faith of his French allies and permitted unimpeded missionary activities out of respect to his benefactors. The missionary activities were dominated by the Spanish in Tonkin and the French in the central and southern regions. At the time of his death, there were six European bishops in Vietnam. The population of Christians was estimated at 300,000 in Tonkin and 60,000 in Cochinchina.

Later Nguyễn Dynasty

The peaceful coexistence of Catholicism alongside the classical Confucian system of Vietnam was not to last. Gia Long himself was Confucian in outlook. As Crown Prince Nguyễn Phúc Cảnh had already died, it was assumed that Cảnh's son would succeed Gia Long as emperor, but, in 1816, Nguyễn Phúc Đảm, the son of Gia Long's second wife, was appointed instead. Gia Long chose him for his strong character and his deeply conservative aversion to Westerners, whereas Cảnh's lineage had converted to Catholicism and were reluctant to maintain their Confucian traditions such as ancestor worship.

Lê Văn Duyệt and many of the high-ranking mandarins opposed Gia Long's succession plan. Duyệt and many of his southern associates tended to be favourable to Christianity, and supported the installation of Nguyễn Cảnh's descendants on the throne. As a result, Duyệt was held in high regard by the Catholic community. According to the historian Mark McLeod, Duyệt was more concerned with military rather than social needs, and was thus more interested in maintaining strong relations with Europeans so that he could acquire weapons from them, rather than worrying about the social implications of westernization. Gia Long was aware that Catholic clergy were opposed to the installation of Minh Mạng because they favored a Catholic monarch (Cảnh's son) who would grant them favors.

Minh Mạng began to place restrictions on Catholicism. He enacted "edicts of interdiction of the Catholic religion" and condemned Christianity as a "heterodox doctrine". He saw the Catholics as a possible source of division, especially as the missionaries were arriving in Vietnam in ever-increasing numbers. Duyệt protected Vietnamese Catholic converts and westerners from Minh Mạng's policies by disobeying the emperor's orders.

Minh Mạng issued an imperial edict, that ordered missionaries to leave their areas and move to the imperial city, ostensibly because the palace needed translators, but in order to stop the Catholics from proselytizing. Whereas the government officials in central and northern Vietnam complied, Duyệt disobeyed the order and Minh Mạng was forced to bide his time. The emperor began to slowly wind back the military powers of Duyệt, and increased this after his death. Minh Mạng ordered the posthumous humiliation of Duyệt, which resulted in the desecration of his tomb, the execution of sixteen relatives, and the arrests of his colleagues. Duyệt's son, Lê Văn Khôi, along with the southerners who had seen their and Duyệt's power curtailed, revolted against Minh Mạng.

Khôi declared himself in favour of the restoration of the line of Prince Cảnh. This choice was designed to obtain the support of Catholic missionaries and Vietnamese Catholics, who had been supporting the Catholic line of Prince Cảnh. Lê Văn Khôi further promised to protect Catholicism. In 1833, the rebels took over southern Vietnam, with Catholics playing a large role. 2,000 Vietnamese Catholic troops fought under the command of Father Nguyễn Văn Tâm.

The rebellion was suppressed after three years of fighting. The French missionary Father Joseph Marchand, of the Paris Foreign Missions Society was captured in the siege, and had been supporting Khôi, and asked for the help of the Siamese army, through communications to his counterpart in Siam, Father Jean-Louis Taberd. This showed the strong Catholic involvement in the revolt and Father Marchand was executed.

The failure of the revolt had a disastrous effect on the Christians of Vietnam. New restrictions against Christians followed, and demands were made to find and execute remaining missionaries. Anti-Catholic edicts to this effect were issued by Minh Mạng in 1836 and 1838. In 1836-37 six missionaries were executed: Ignacio Delgado, Dominico Henares, José Fernández, François Jaccard, Jean-Charles Cornay, and Bishop Pierre Borie.

Colonial era

Persistent rebellions occurred throughout the Nguyễn Dynasty, many led by Catholic priests intent on installing a Christian monarch. During the French colonial campaign against Vietnam from 1858 to 1883, many Catholics, including priests, joined with the French in helping to establish colonialism by fighting against the Vietnamese government. In 1858, when the first expeditions were launched by Admiral Rigault de Genouilly, he was accompanied by an adviser, Bishop Pellerin. Once colonial rule was established the Catholics were rewarded with preferential treatment in government posts, education, and the church was given vast tracts of royal land that had been seized.

Roman Catholicism in South Vietnam (1954–1975)

From 1954-75, Vietnam was split into North and South Vietnam. In a country where surveys of the religious composition estimated the Buddhist majority to be between 70 and 90 percent, President Ngô Đình Diệm's policies generated claims of religious bias. As a member of the Catholic minority, he pursued policies which antagonized and disenfranchised the Buddhist majority. The government was biased towards Catholics in public service and military promotions, and the allocation of land, business favors and tax concessions. Diệm once told a high-ranking officer, forgetting the man was from a Buddhist background, "Put your Catholic officers in sensitive places. They can be trusted." Many officers in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam converted to Catholicism to better their prospects. The distribution of firearms to village self-defense militias intended to repel Việt Cộng guerrillas saw weapons only given to Catholics. Some Catholic priests ran their own private armies, and in some areas forced conversions, looting, shelling and demolition of pagodas occurred. Some villages converted en masse in order to receive aid or avoid being forcibly resettled by Diệm's regime. The Catholic Church was the largest landowner in the country, and its holdings were exempt from reform and given extra property acquisition rights, while restrictions against Buddhism remained in force. Catholics were also de facto exempt from the corvée labor that the government obliged all citizens to perform; U.S. aid was disproportionately distributed to Catholic majority villages. In 1959, Diem dedicated his country to the Virgin Mary.

The white and gold Vatican flag was regularly flown at all major public events in South Vietnam. The newly constructed Huế and Đà Lạt universities were placed under Catholic authority to foster a Catholic-influenced academic environment.

In May 1963, in the central city of Huế, where Diệm's elder brother Pierre Martin Ngô Đình Thục was archbishop, Buddhists were prohibited from displaying Buddhist flags during Vesak celebrations. A few days earlier, Catholics were encouraged to fly religious flags at a celebration in honour of Thục. This led to a protest against the government, which was suppressed by Diệm's forces, killing nine civilians. This led to a mass campaign against Diệm's government during the Buddhist crisis, and Diệm was deposed and assassinated on 2 November 1963.

Present time

Notre Dame Cathedral in Hồ Chí Minh City
The first Vietnamese bishop, John Baptist Nguyễn Bá Tòng, was consecrated in 1933 at St. Peter's Basilica by Pope Pius XI. In 1976, the Holy See made Archbishop Joseph Mary Trịnh Như Khuê the first Vietnamese cardinal. Joseph Mary Cardinal Trịnh Văn Căn in 1979, and Paul Joseph Cardinal Phạm Đình Tung in 1994, were his successors. The well known Vietnamese Cardinal Nguyên Văn Thuân, who was imprisoned by the Communist regime from 1975–88 and spent nine years in solitary confinement, was nominated Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and made its President in 1998. On 21 February 2001, he was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II. Vietnamese Catholics who died for their faith from 1533 to the present day were canonized in 1988 by John Paul II as "Vietnamese Martyrs".

There have been meetings between leaders of Vietnam and the Vatican, including a visit by Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng to the Vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI on 25 January 2007. Official Vatican delegations have been traveling to Vietnam almost every year since 1990 for meetings with its government authorities and to visit Catholic dioceses. In March 2007, a Vatican delegation visited Vietnam and met with local officials.[ The sides discussed the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations in normal atmosphere, but have not provided a specific schedule for the exchange of ambassadors.

The issues of continued restrictions on Catholic life in Vietnam and the nominating of bishops by the Pope without or with insisted by local government approval of Vietnamese bodies remain obstacles in bilateral dialog. In March 2007, Thaddeus Nguyễn Văn Lý (b. 1946), a dissident Roman Catholic priest, was sentenced by Vietnamese court in Huế to eight years in prison on grounds of "anti-government activities". Nguyen, who had already spent 14 of the past 24 years in prison, was accused of being a founder of a pro-democracy movement Bloc 8406 and a member of the Progression Party of Vietnam.

On 16 September 2007, the fifth anniversary of the Cardinal Nguyễn Văn Thuận's death, the Roman Catholic Church began the beatification process for him. Benedict XVI expressed "profound joy" at the news of the official opening of the beatification cause. Vietnamese Catholics reacted positively to the news of the beatification. In December 2007, thousands of Vietnamese Catholics marched in procession to the former apostolic nunciature in Hanoi and prayed there twice aiming to return the property to the local church.
The building was a historic Buddhist site until it was confiscated by the French colonists and given to Catholics, before the communist North Vietnamese government confiscated it from the Vatican in 1959. This was the first mass civil action by Vietnamese Catholics since the 1970s. Later the protests were supported by Catholics in Hồ Chí Minh City and Hà Ðông, who made the same demands for their respective territories.

In February 2008, the governments promised to return the building to the Roman Catholic Church. A year later, in September 2008, the authorities changed their position and decided to demolish the building to create a public park.


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