Pope John Paul II has commemorated the 25th anniversary Nov. 24 of Pope John XXIII´s establishment of a local hierarchy in Vietnam.
For the occasion, Pope John Paul presented a letter to Cardinal Trịnh Văn Căn of Hà Nội here Nov. 23, at an audience that included Archbishop Nguyễn Văn Bình of Hochiminh City (Hochiminhville) and Bishop Huỳnh Đông Các of Qui Nhơn.
The bishops arrived in Rome Nov. 7 for their "ad limina" visit.
The cardinal told the pope that, despite a priest shortage, especially in the north, praise of God rings loud in Vietnam churches and chapels on Sundays and feast days, attracting the attention of the indifferent and unbelievers.
Of prime importance to sustain prayer, he said, is a plan, authorized by the government, to print and distribute 80,000 missals and 8,000 complete Bibles.
The cardinal said Religious still do as much pastoral work as possible, and continue to get applications from young people who want to join them.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 26, he said, Vietnam´s bishops in Hà Nội for their annual conference celebrated their 25th anniversary by begging the Lord for a new Pentecost in Vietnam.
-- Before accepting the letter, Cardinal Trịnh Văn Căn said "six million Vietnamese Catholics" are grateful to the pope for his message to Vietnam while enroute to Thailand in 1984, and his appeal in October to relief organizations to help flood victims in central Vietnam.
He said Vietnamese Catholics take pride in being members of the universal Church, and admire the pope´s travels to spread the message of peace and salvation throughout the world.
The cardinal said they are determined to remain faithful to their ancestors in the faith, following in the footsteps of Vietnam´s 117 beatified martyrs.
-- Recalling Pope John´s decision to establish a local hierarchy, reflecting his predecessor´s high regard for Vietnam bishops and priests, Pope John Paul said in his letter that "not a single day goes by without my thinking of you in my prayers, with great affection and esteem."
He praised Vietnamese Catholics for pride in belonging to the Church, courage in witnessing their faith amid "persisting and increasing difficulties," and willingness to accept hardships to stay faithful to the Gospel.
"The Catholic Church in the whole world," the pope´s letter said, "is edified and strengthened by your example." He praised Vietnamese bishops for being close to and concerned with their Catholics, sharing their poverty.
The pope said he hopes the government will allow young Vietnamese asking to enter seminaries to study for priesthood to do so.
Noting the Vietnam bishops´ 1980 pastoral letter calling on Catholics to help in national reconstruction, the pope said he regrets that not all of Vietnam´s bishops were allowed to make their "ad limina" visit this year.
The 25th anniversary is an occasion of joy, he said, stemming from countless martyrs´ blood and the Vietnam Church´s historical awareness that "the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, to bring forth abundant fruit, a source of hope to new generations."
-- As Cardinal Trịnh Văn Căn concelebrated Mass Nov. 24 in St. Peter´s Basilica at the Nov. 24-Dec. 8 extraordinary synod, the Roman Association of Priests and Religious from Vietnam gathered in the Vietnamese Seminary residence here for an hour of adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Archbishop Nguyễn Văn Bình presided and Bishop Huỳnh Đông Các was animator.
Before the noon-time angelus, the pope told people in St. Peter´s Square and a live Vatican Radio broadcast about the Vietnam bishops´ 25th anniversary.
He asked Catholics to pray that the "Vietnamese brethen may continue to courageously witness to their attachment to Christ, the redeemer of man, and contribute generously and assiduously to the progress of their country."
-- Despite a heavy schedule, the pope invited the three Vietnamese bishops to dinner Nov. 16, indicating interest in and admiration for the Vietnam Church.
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