Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Catholic Church in Viet Nam

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A Gilded Cage - Trailer

The Catholic Church in Viet Nam continues to grow and provides vital services of an almost biblical nature to the nation. Viet Nam is a nation still afflicted with leprosy and the Church cares for the ill and their families. The church has actually created welcome centers to assist in helping a segment of the population that is discriminated against.

So who provides services to the ill? The priests, the religious and the lay Catholics. The numbers of people afflicted is precise and the services well known. This would be an example of what St. Francis describes as “Preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.” Besides providing medical care the Church helps the families care for their homes, find work and fight the social isolation that is associated with having a family member who is a leper.

The services provided by members of the Catholic community are often done quietly and outside of the government run medical system. That quiet reflects the discrimination associated with the illness. The conditions of Catholics in Viet Nam may actually be improving.

Attendance at Ho Chi Minh City’s Notre Dame Cathedral and the St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi are impressive. Church members report the government is more tolerant of the Church. Membership in the Catholic Church is estimated to be 8 million.

The result has been a flexing of the Catholic’s political “muscle”. Members have held prayer vigils outside of church property that had been confiscated by the government after the nation was united under communist rule. The government for its part has been more tolerant of the Church in response to the country being admitted into the World Trade Organization.

The government and the Vatican have held discussions about the possibility of restoring diplomatic relationships between Viet Nam and the Vatican. The discussions have included a tour of the churches by Vatican delegates. Some church land confiscated by the government has been restored. The Catholic Church in Viet Nam appears to be vital, relevant and growing.

Christmas Eve Chorus

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