Ho Chi Minh City
(AsiaNews) - War, persecution and materialism failed to erase the presence of
Catholics in Vietnam, thanks to the witness of priests and lay people who have
nurtured the faith. In the south of the
country memories of Fr. Dominique
Nguyen Dinh Cam are still vivid. The priest
was arrested and sentenced to prison by the communist authorities after the
reunification. His years of captivity, the faithful who knew him say "sapped
his physical, but not his spiritual strength". His
testimony, along with that of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan and
other great heroes of the faith, are the most obvious sign of the vitality of
In 1972, a devastating conflict (the "red fire summer") raged in the central highlands of Vietnam. Fr. Dominique led his parishioners outside of the war-torn areas, stopping in a safe area of the province of Binh Tuy (in the south). With the approval of future Card. Van Thuan - then bishop of Nha Trang - December 22, 1973 he founded the parish of Tin Mung, becoming the first vicar.
In 1976, one year after the reunification of the country under the auspices of the communist government of the North, the priest was arrested. His close friendship with the cardinal, who was also arrested and jailed fro a long period in communist prisons, was among the reasons for his arrest. Fr. Dominique was released in 1981, thanks to a "local revolutionary government," and returned to the parish of Tin Mung where he continued to serve the faithful with renewed vigor, in spite of the suffering he was subjected to in prison. His health was severely affected, but "his faith was still strong," and even in prison he was able- through various efforts - "to build up the Church."
The priest worked hard to promote vocations, to fill the void left by years of severe persecution by the Communist authorities. After 21 years of intense pastoral work, on June 1, 1994, he was assigned to the parish of Binh An, in the Diocese of Phan Thiet, once again giving example of "strength" that comes "from faith", capable of overcoming any obstacle. Today, the diocese is composed of more than 2,400 faithful and, in recent years, has been able to give to the Church in Vietnam three priests, nine sisters and four seminarians. A journey that began 40 years ago after the birth of the parish of Tin Mung and that, even today, produces "good fruits" in spite of persecution and violence.