Hanoi (AsiaNews) - A delegation of Catholics from the United States has recently visited on Vietnam to strengthen relations between the Churches in the two nations. Meanwhile in California, the faithful of Vietnamese origin are concerned about the violence against Catholics in the motherland.
Bishop Stephen William Skylstad of Spokane - former President of the Conference of Bishops in the U.S. - and delegates, after attending the general meeting of Asian bishops in Manila, journeyed to Vietnam August 16 to 21.
The group visited the diocese of Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang and My Tho. On August 20, near Hue, Msgr. Skylstad also visited the national Marian shrine of Our Lady of La Vang. The Eucharistic celebration, in addition to the Archbishop of Hue, was concelebrated by Msgr. Etienne Nguyen Nhu The, as well as dozens of local priests. At least 2 thousand faithful were present. The rector of the sanctuary invited Msgr. Skylstad to visit the country again in 2011, when the Vietnamese Church will celebrate a special anniversary for the 350 years since the founding of the first Apostolic Vicariate in Vietnam and 50 years since the establishment of the first local hierarchy.
Archbishop Nhu The urged his parishioners to pray for the Church of the USA and the Catholic Vietnamese immigrants in that country, that they be courageous heralds of the Gospel.
According to the U.S. bishops' conference, at present of the 1.3 million Vietnamese in America, more than 500 thousand are Catholics. Among them are 850 priests, 70 permanent deacons and dozens of seminarians.
Since last August 24 and for a week, 140 Vietnamese priests and religious from different dioceses of the United States are gathered in Santa Clara (northern California) to share their pastoral experiences. Among their greatest concerns, the growing number of divorces among young Vietnamese couples and a decrease in youth Mass attendance, which in turn is leading to a decline in vocations. Immediately after the war in Vietnam, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life flourished among young Catholics who had managed to flee the country.
The participants also discussed at length the situation of the Church in Vietnam. Fr. John Tran, one of the participants, said: "The continued oppression of the Church - which sometimes becomes open persecution - causes serious concern among the Vietnamese Catholic community in the world and requires an appropriate response”.
"The Vietnamese police - he added - brutally beat hundreds of Catholic in Tam Toa, reducing two priests to the point of death. We are deeply saddened by this terrible news. We want to pray and discuss what we can do to help the Church in our homeland. "