VATICAN CITY, NOV. 27, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is encouraging the Vietnamese to evangelize so that the virtues of charity and justice will take root in their society.
The Pope made this invitation in a message sent to the president of the Vietnamese episcopal conference, Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Da Lat. The message marks the beginning of a jubilee year just under way in Vietnam, celebrating 350 years since the establishment of its first two apostolic vicariates and 50 years since the hierarchy was put in place.
Pope Alexander VII established the vicariates of Dang Ngoai (Tonkin) and Dang Trong (Cochinchine) on Sept. 9, 1659. Bishops Francois Pallu and Lambert de la Motte, both from France, were the prelates.
Then, on Nov. 24, 1960, Blessed Pope John XXIII established the Catholic hierarchy in Vietnam, elevating Ha Noi, Hue and Sai Gon (now Ho Chi Minh City) to archdioceses.
The jubilee began Tuesday and will run through Jan. 6, 2011. Tuesday was the feast of the Vietnamese martyrs Andrew Dung Lac and his 116 companions, beatified by John Paul II in 1988.
Proclaiming the Gospel
In the French-language message, the Holy Father encourages the faithful of the country to engage in "a profound evangelization that will lead the whole of Vietnamese society to the evangelical values of charity, truth, justice and rectitude."
"With experience in the following of Christ, these values acquire a new dimension that goes beyond their traditional moral meaning, as they sink their roots in God, who wills the good of every man and his happiness," the Pontiff wrote.
He continued, "The jubilee is a special moment to renew the proclamation of the Gospel to fellow citizens and to be increasingly a Church of communion and mission."
Recalling that the celebration opened on the feast day of Andrew Dung Lac and his 116 companions, the Pope affirmed that "their noble witness will help the whole people of God in Vietnam to activate its charity, increase its hope and strengthen its faith, which is sometimes tested day in and day out."
The group of martyrs lost their lives in the 19th century. The Holy Father drew upon their testimony to give particular encouragement to priests.
He said that the priestly virtues of Andrew Dung Lac "are a luminous model for priests and seminarians, secular and religious, of your country."
"In this Year of Priests," the Bishop of Rome suggested, "you can take from his example and that of his companions a renewed spiritual energy that will help you to live your priesthood with greater fidelity to your vocation, in communion, in the worthy celebration of the sacraments of the Church and in a dynamic and intense apostolate."
The Pope also invited the faithful not to lose this opportunity "for reconciliation with God and neighbor."
"To do this," he said, "mistakes of the past and of the present committed against brothers in the faith and against brother countrymen must be acknowledged and forgiveness must be asked. At the same time, the resolution must also be made to further and enrich ecclesial communion and to build a just, solidary and equitable society through genuine dialogue in mutual respect and healthy collaboration."