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Why hasn’t God punished the World yet

Holy Mother of Guadalupe Icon Pilgrimage

 Vietnam – a country known more due to Vietnamese-American War from the 60’s and 70’s, a war which ended in 1976, but whose traces can still be seen today. For example the National Marian Shrine of La Vang – the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Sanctuary was destroyed in a US bombing and still remains unbuilt…

A fascinating, friendly nation who forgot the wounds of the past and now looks towards the future with confidence.

But still a militant nation! I don’t know any other nation in human history who defeated four powerful empires. One by one, the Chinese Empire, the Kubilai’s Mongol Empire, the French colonialism defeated in the famous battle of Bien Dien Phu in 1956 and also the American imperialism, which left Southern Vietnam in 1976.

All this passed … the Vietnamese nation forgot the war and now appears as a powerful nation with a young population (out of 98 million people).

The first glance when I got off the plane in Hanoi was that I didn’t land in a country that is still under the communist rule because I could see large western commercials everywhere. They reign undisturbed, defying the communist allergy for everything that is capitalist.

If there weren’t the communist signs: the flag with hammer and sickle, very well known for us, Romanians, and the famous „energizing” exhortations, in which the dearest fellow, Ho Chi Minh, still smiles like a gentle father, then we could have said: yes, we are in a capitalist country!

This feeling became stronger when we crossed the famous 17th parallel, the division mark between Northern and Southern Vietnam. The red flags of the Communist Party of Vietnam have almost disappeared and were replaced by the national Vietnamese flags. Certainly the Vietnamese people don’t love communism. In the Catholic parishes that I visited, the party flags are replaced by yellow and white Vatican flags! I haven’t seen so many flags of the Holy See anywhere in the world. This is a sign of a genuine bond between the Vietnamese people and Vatican.

The state repression against the Catholic Church’s is water under the bridge … Everyone can take part in numerous Masses that are celebrated in the Catholic Churches of Vietnam.

I have to observe a significant positive fact (although I am not a fan of communism, on the contrary) – the Communist Party managed to eradicate the endemic poverty in these places that persisted under the French colonialism and then the American wardship. Unlike India, here in Vietnam each family has a decent home and I haven’t seen the miserable lodges from India …

The Catholic Church in Vietnam is a minority. Vietnamese Catholic people are only 8 million faithful out of a total of 98 million inhabitants in an area of 329 556 km2. In all there are 26 Catholic dioceses and 2 archdioceses.

But the first feeling that this extraordinary, vital Church aroused in my heart was to behold the Church of the first centuries of Christianity …

I stopped in the Diocese of Vinh, in central Vietnam, at Fr. Antoine Van Lam Han’s invitation, but I think the situation is much the same in all 26 Catholic dioceses.

And what did I saw?

First: big families … A Catholic family has at least four children and an extraordinary participation in Holy Mass and Church Services.

But most surprising was the schedule for Ferial Holy Masses (during the week): 05:00 AM. The Holy Rosary begins at 4:30, then the Holy Mass so that the adults, youths and children could go to work and school (or field work) having received Our Eucharistic Lord.

The Vietnamese Catholic Church grows because of the big number of births. At St. Joseph Church I witnessed 22 baptisms (!!!)in one Sunday before the Holy Mass, but also converts from paganism. Even before returning to the parish, in Hanoi’s Cathedral, 14 young people from pagan families prepared to enter the Church. They were still catechumens, so, during a special ritual, they received the Cross and the Holy Scripture. At another church, St. Mary, Queen of the Rosary, in the afternoon, during Lent, all Passion Gospels are read and between the Gospels the Holy Rosary is recited, these beside daily Mass at 05:00 AM.

The presence of young people at Holy Mass, at Catechesis and prayers in the Church is very touching. Catholic diocesan seminaries are full. In the seminary of Vinh alone are 450 young people, and the admission in the seminar is made after a rigorous selection and serious exams.

In all places were the Icon of Holy Mother of Guadalupe was exposed gathered numerous people. I had to talk only in a preventive manner about the false Western models of which the Vietnamese Church must keep aloof from.

I was said: we don’t perform abortions, not because the state wouldn’t allow, but because the Vietnamese women fear God. Abortion is performed more in pagan families. In the Catholic families it is a very rare phenomenon (I speak about Vinh Diocese). This diocese will soon split in two due to the large number of faithful.

Another interesting aspect is the spectacular size of Churches in Vietnam. Even in villages there are large churches that are filled up during Holy Masses.

Of course the communist state doesn’t help the Catholic Church. The West strives not to help this fascinating Church, however, help comes from the wealthy Catholic families, who give large amounts of money for church building and for the priests’ cars because they have to travel very much, having several branches of the parishes. (In Vietnam is practiced the so-called system – one country-two systems – meaning the political regime is communist and the economy is the market economy. So it defends the wealthy people who can help the Church). Then I visited the National Marian Shrine of La Vang, a town near the historic former capital of Vietnam, Hue (~ 60 km).

In 1978 emperor King Canh Thinh began to persecute the Christians fearing the rapid spread of Christianity in the area of Vietnam. Many Christians have had to flee into the jungle for fear of persecution, but there many were taken ill with various diseases. However Christians gathered every night under a tree to pray the Holy Rosary. One evening, among the tree branches, appeared a beautiful lady, dressed in traditional Vietnamese vestments, „ áo dài„, holding a baby in her arms, framed by two angels on both sides. The Christians identified the Blessed Virgin immediately. She began to comfort and to show them some leaves that they can boil to treat their diseases. Soon the sick were cured of their diseases and after that Christians began to return to their homes and they told what happened.

Vietnamese Bishop Conference chose this place as a National Shrine in the honor of the Immaculate Conception. Pope John XXIII elevated the church of La Vang at the rank of Basilica Minor on 08/22/1961. Unfortunately the beautiful Basilica was destroyed, as I mentioned, in a US bombing in 1972.

Currently, they build a great traditional Vietnamese style Basilica.

In conclusion this pilgrimage with the Icon of Holy Mother of Guadalupe has given me an answer to the question I have asked myself many times: How does the good God bear us after all these evils that happen in our secularized society of Europe and America?

The Lord showed me (likewise He did to Elijah – who believed that only he remained true to the living God) that there is still a great vitality in churches where the joy of coming to Holy Mass is fantastic. Stunned by this touching presence and asking a priest how is that possible, he replied: how could people not come to church when the King of Kings comes to them?!

Such a model church is worthy of more support from our brothers in the West and I think that HLI could also help in a few cases such as a new building for the hundreds of young people and children who have no place to learn the catechesis or by renovating an old church populated by hundreds of children and youths.


Therefore I thanks HLI for making possible this fascinating pilgrimage and at the same time I make an invitation for our brethren in the West to go and visit a living Church, a Church blessed by the Lord, a pro-life Church that we must strive to help her stay this way …