SPEECH BY THE MOST REV PETER NGUYỄN VĂN NHƠN,
PRESIDENT OF THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF VIETNAM
AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE JUBILEE YEAR 2010
Dear Cardinals, Bishops
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the moment, the parish of So Kien in the archdiocese of Hanoi is the heart of the Vietnamese Church. All members of the Vietnamese Catholic Bishops’ conference are gathered here. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome our distinguished guests from other countries. Thousands of priests and religious brothers and sisters, as well as tens of thousands of representatives of the laity from 26 Vietnamese archdioceses and dioceses are present here. Millions of domestic and overseas lay people turn their hearts to here. Yes, at this moment, the parish of So Kien is actually the heart of our Vietnamese Church. Indeed, we are living the mystery of the Church, the mystery of uniting the people of God into one in this place and in a special way that we never have before. Therefore, let us first exchange handshakes with greetings of peace and friendly smiles to welcome this great day of opening the Jubilee Year.
My brothers and sisters,
1. We are gathered here from the different areas of this country to celebrate the Opening Ceremony Jubilee 2010. This moment encourages us to look back on the history of the Catholic Church in Vietnam: In the fifteenth century, through the footsteps of the early venturesome missionaries, the Good News of Jesus Christ was proclaimed in our lovely land. After that, this Good News has become widespread by God’s grace. As the result, 350 ago, the first two apostolic vicariates of Tonkin (Dang Ngoai) and Cochinchine (Dang Trong) were established by Pope Alexander VII in 1659. The constant increase of followers as well as a wide development of evangelization led to the creation of the hierarchy of the Church in Vietnam by pope John XXIII on November 24, 1960. That event marked the maturing of the Vietnamese Catholic Church.
Looking back on this historical journey, we discover the mystery of the Church – the mystery of the mustard seed ( cf Luke 13:18-19). When the seed of Good News was planted in this country, it became deeply rooted in faith and has therefore grown into hope and become the tree that is large enough to give the shade of love for millions of people. Vietnam now has the second highest percentage of Catholic per capita in Asia. This mystery originated from God who gave us this precious gift – his only Son, Jesus Christ – and gave the missionaries the strenght they needed, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to preach the Good News in our country. Therefore, when we look back at our local Church history, we must lift high our voices to gratefully sing : “Give thanks to the LORD, who is good, whose love endures forever” (Ps 118: 1).
2. Together with giving thanks to God, we must express our deep gratitude to our ancestors, benefactors, and courageous witnesses of faith. If the small mustard seed sprouts up and grows by the light, which is God’s grace, then it is also nurtured by the fresh water which is the blood of martyrs, and the sweat of the brows of our ancestors and benefactors. For this reason, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam has approved the suggestion of the Most Reverend Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, Archbishop of Hanoi, for the opening ceremony of the Jubilee Year to be held in So Kien parish, where so many relics of martyrs are kept. Last night, before celebrating this opening ceremony of the Jubilee, we conducted a solemn rite to show our great reverence to the Vietnamese martyrs. And to show our gratitude towards the benefactors, we invited the cardinals and the bishops – who represent the Churches, which have helped and continue to help us to build and develop the local Church – to join with us in this inaugural Mass today.
3. When we express our deep gratitude to our ancestors, we are aware that faith is a truly precious grace that God gives us by His only Son and is nurtured by the blood of the matyrs. As a result, we must respect this grace of faith and together build up the Church, day by day, to develop as God wants.
God desires that we build up the Church as God’s family. This opening ceremony of the Jubilee today shows that we want to be a community as brothers and sisters in one family in love. We who come here from different cities, from 26 dioceses, belonging to different vocations, together are many people, but we are united in one heart. Although we are many, we all share the one Bread, one Cup; ans so we are one Body in Christ that unites all of us together as one family. We are in communion with one another because each person is in communion with Jesus Christ (cf 1Cr 10:17). This bond of community needs to become part of our daily lives, following the example of the early Christian community : one body, one heart, united together, deeply rooted in our faith through diligent study of the Word, attending Mass and praying together, and sharing everything with one another (Acts 2:42-46; 4:32). Our ancestor tried to live like that. Celebrating the opening ceremony of the Jubilee Year in the archdiocese of Ha noi reminds us to remember the early Vietnamese Christian community in Thang Long. The way they lived shows how they loved one another and to such an extent that they were called the followers of “the Way of Love”.
Thus, the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2010 invites and impels all of us to build together the communion of the Church in which each individual identifies with the Church, rejoicing with the joy of the Church, suffering with the pain of the Church. It is a Church in which each member feels beloved and at the same time ready to love one another, and responsible for the welfare of the Church. This is the style of life of the true disciples of Jesus as he said : “This is my commandment : love one another as I love you” (cf. John 15: 12), and “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (cf. John 13:35).
4. Moreover, the precious grace of faith that God has given us should also be shared with others, especially the Vietnamese people who live together in this country, sharing a history and the fate of this nation. Indeed, the more we are aware of this amazing faith, the more we love our people. This encourages us to ongoing evangelization, and making the Gospel’s value permeate all situations of daily life. It is Jesus Christ’s decree : “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the World” (cf. Mt 5: 13-14).
The best process for achieving this mission is building our lives on the basis of Scripture. In particular, in this Jubilee Year 2010, according to the words of Pope Benedict XVI, each Catholic family should become the school of faith and love, as well as of human values and virtues. Each Catholic person ought to live according to a right conscience, charity, honesty, and respect for the common good. Thus, we participate in building a society based on values of solidarity, equality and justice. This is a society that the people eagerly long for. At the same time, we also witness to all people about the beauty and value of the Catholic religion.
My brothers and sisters,
The Church of Jesus-Christ is a pilgrim Church – a community that is on the journey and has not yet arrived at the goal of Heaven. Therefore, we who – in private and community – have made mistakes and failed to do things we should. Apologize for these faults, and ask God, as well as our brothers and sisters to forgive us. Thus, with peaceful hearts we resolutely go forward to announce Jesus and His Good News for our Vietnamese brothers and sisters.
With deepest thanks to God and determination to continue to build the Vietnamese Church as God wants, and hope about the future, on behalf of the Vietnamese Catholic Bishops’Conference, I solemnly and joyfuly announce the opening of the Jubilee Year 2010 of the Vietnamese Catholic Church.
Sở Kiện, Tuesday November 24, 2009