Vietnamese Catholics of Diaspora Called to Be Witnesses of Faith

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe Closes Significant Meeting Held in Rome

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 31, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Sepe invited Vietnamese Catholics of the diaspora to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world, as the crowd of 3,000 pilgrims returned to over 18 coutries.



"Today the Lord is calling you to proclaim the Gospel in the places where you have chosen to live, making resound in your hearts the words he spoke to Peter and the others apostles: 'Duc in altum!- Put out into the deep!',"the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said during his homily.

"Peter and his first companions trusted in Jesus, they let down their nets, and made a large catch of fish. This same call is valid also for you, as we are taught by the Pope who encourages us not to forget the past, to live with joy the present, and open with confidence to the future," the cardinal said.

The Vietnamese attending the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday, July 27, in St. Peter's Basilica included priests, men and women religious, young people and families. The Mass was celebrated with typical Vietnamese music, musical instruments, hymns, and liturgical dancing.

This was the crowning moment of the four-day meeting of faith, the first organized at the world level since the diaspora. Promoted by the Office for the Co-ordination of Pastoral Care for Overseas Vietnamese Catholics (set up by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples), and directed by Monsignor Dinh Duc Dao, the meeting focused on the theme "United to Live and Proclaim the Gospel."

At present more than 2 million Vietnamese are living outside their homeland, of which, 500,000 are Catholics.

"You have come from various parts of the world, pilgrims of faith to gather in the name of the Lord Jesus whom we all believe to be the Son of God and the Redeemer of our humanity. As pilgrims you carry on your backs a rucksack of emotions. In the backpack there is a bit of everything: joy of the traveler who reaches his destination, happiness for meeting so many brothers and sisters in the faith which unites as in a family, but also a deep longing for the people you left behind whom you have not seen for many years," the cardinal continued.

"Some of you left the country carrying only memories, others have only faded photographs to recall the past," he said, adding "[n]evertheless, despite so much hardship, you have kept strong and vigorous the faith received from your fathers."

At the conclusion of the Mass, Cardinal Sepe entrusted a mission crucifix to representatives of the Vietnamese communities on the different continents saying, "receive the Cross and the Book of the Word of Life," he said to each as he handed them the Cross and the Gospel. "The Church sends you out into the whole world to proclaim the Word of God to all peoples that they may be saved."

According to the Church's 2001 Statistical Yearbook, of the 80 million inhabitants in Vietnam, 5,412 million are Catholics. The majority of the population is Buddhist or professes other traditional religions.

In 2001 there were in Vietnam 37 bishops, 2,027 diocesan priests, 474 priest religious, 1,487 men religious, 9,548 women religious, 305 consecrated lay women, and 49,862 catechists. Following the Philippines, East Timor, and South Korea, Vietnam is the country of South East Asia with the highest percentage of Catholics.