Rome (Fides Service) – With traditional Vietnamese song and dance and colourful festivities, the first meeting of the new millennium for overseas Vietnamese Catholics opened on 24 July at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome with a solemn Mass attended by more than 2,600 Vietnamese emigrants from all over the world, clergy, nuns, laity who prayed together and thanked God for the graces received in three decade of life in the Diaspora. The event, organised by the Office for the Apostolate of Overseas Vietnamese Catholics set up by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, is reflecting on the theme “United to live the Gospel and Proclaim it to Others”. The objective of the Meeting, which will close on 27 July, is to outline a common Pastoral Plan for the entire Catholic community overseas keeping in mind indications given by the Pope and the various local Churches.
The opening Liturgy, presided by Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson of Adelaide, Australia where there is a large community of Vietnamese origin, was followed by a speech by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples who commented the theme of the Meeting and encouraged those present to bear witness of unity, to live the Gospel in daily life, and to proclaim the Good news to those who have yet to encounter Jesus Christ.
Among the special guests who travelled to Rome for the event, Bishop Paul Nguyen Van Hoa, President of the Vietnamese Bishops and Bishop Dominic Mai Thanh Luong auxiliary of Orange diocese in California
On Saturday July 26, the participants will have after a private audience with Pope John Paul II at his Summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. On Sunday July 27 Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe will preside a solemn closing Mass.
Messages of esteem and encouragement have been sent to the meeting by various people and groups including Japanese Archbishop Stephen Fumio Hamao, President of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant Peoples who recalled the deeply loved and venerated late Vietnamese Cardinal Xavier Van Thuan persecuted, imprisoned for long years and exiled for his faith in Jesus Christ, reminding those present that “persecution is a source of apostolic impetus”. In their message to the Meeting the Bishops of Malaysia compared the experience of Vietnamese exiles who fled persecution to that of the “disciples of Jesus”, while the Bishops of India unerlined the proud heritage of so many Vietnamese martyrs in the history of Christianity.
Preparation for the event began 12 months ago with three main activities: spiritual promotion and sensitisation in families; statues of Our Lady of La Vang (6 copies of the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated at Vietnam’s national Marian shrine) carried in pilgrimage to all the different national communities overseas in Asia, Australia, Europe and America.
The year 2003 marks several important dates for Vietnam’s Catholics: 30 years in exile in the Diaspora for many; 470 years since the Gospel was first proclaimed in Vietnam; 205 years since the first apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Vang, today the national Marian Shrine; 70 years since the appointment and ordination of the first locally born Vietnamese Bishop. PA (Fides Service 25/7/2003 EM lines 43 Words: 546)