35 years — The Fall of Saigon : The Great Witness of the Vietnamese Catholics


Thirty five years ago Saigon fell and the Republic of South Vietnam was conquered by the invading North Vietnamese Army — Communist oppression fell upon a great land. We are fortunate in this country to have received many refugees from Vietnam. The Catholic faith is very strong among them. Here are a few high points of their great witness to the faith.

1. Our Lady of La Vang
In 1798 many Christians took refuge in the jungle near Quang Tri, a village in central Vietnam. Many people died from the cold weather, sickness and starvation. At night, they often gathered in small groups to pray the rosary. One night they were visited by an apparition of Our Blessed Mother in a long cape, holding a child in her arms, with two angels at her sides. She comforted them and told them to boil the leaves from the surrounding trees to use as medicine. She also told them that from that day on, all those who came to this place to pray, would get their prayers heard and answered. All those who were present witnessed this miracle.
Pope John Paul wrote in 1999 — “In going to the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, so dear to the hearts of the Vietnamese faithful, pilgrims entrust to her their joys and their sorrows, their hopes and their sufferings. In this way they turn to God and make themselves intercessors for their families and for their entire people asking the Lord to instil sentiments of peace, brotherhood and solidarity in the hearts of all men and women, so that all the Vietnamese will be every day more closely united, in order to build a world in which it is pleasant to live, based on the essential spiritual and moral values and where each person can be recognized in his dignity as a child of God, and turn freely and with filial love to his Father in heaven who is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). I am particularly close to you in my thoughts at this time when the Church in your country is honouring the Mother of the Saviour; I entrust you to the intercession of Our Lady of La Vang and cordially impart to you and all your pastors an affectionate Apostolic Blessing, which I extend to the pilgrims who will visit the shrine in the spirit of the Jubilee and to all the Catholic faithful in Viet Nam.” 2. The Vietnamese martyrs, canonized in 1988 by Pope John Paul II. See the following website.

3. The incredible story of Bishop Thaddée Le Huu Tu O.Cist; see this website.

4. The Testimony of Hope by Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan: from a book blurb: “Every year, John Paul chose someone to preach a course of spiritual exercises for himself and the Roman Curia at the Vatican. In the Jubilee Year 2000, he asked Vietnamese Archbishop Nguyen van Thuan. Testimony of Hope is the complete text of those Spiritual Exercises. In this moving work, the Archbishop addresses our need for hope at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium. As a prisoner in a communist concentration camp for 13 years, 9 of them in solitary confinement, Archbishop Nguyen van Thuan faced what he describes as the “agonizing pain of isolation and abandonment.” Recounting the details of those long years, he reveals the secret which allowed him to cling to hope in the midst of despair. Nguyen van Thuan ‘s message to John Paul II and to us is this: the same hope that he found in imprisonment is also the hope for the world at this momentous point in history. Faced with any darkness, we have reason for confidence: Christ, Hope of the World. [Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was made the bishop of Nha Trang in 1967, and in 1974, coadjutor of bishop of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). Arrested only a few months after his appointment, Archbishop Van Thuan was imprisoned by the Vietnamese government for thirteen years and then “released” to house arrest. In 1991, Van Thuan was expelled from Vietnam. He went to Rome and began his work in the Roman Curia as Vice President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.”

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