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Marian Devotees urged respect human life women's dignity Catholic Vietnam
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Marian Devotees urged respect human life women's dignity
LA VANG, Vietnam UCAN September 7,2006

A Church leader has asked Marian pilgrims to rediscover in the Blessed Mother the nobility of motherhood in the face of modern social evils that undermine marriage and family life. At the Marian Shrine of La Vang, Archbishop Etienne Nguyen Nhu The of Hue told 70,000 pilgrims, "In our present society we need to live the word of God according to the example of Mary, the Blessed Mother, to rediscover the nobility of women in their mission of motherhood."

La Vang, in Quang Tri province, is about 600 kilometers south of Ha Noi.
Archbishop The said local newspapers report regularly on abortions and cemeteries for aborted fetuses. One cemetery in Hue contains 30,000 aborted fetuses that local Catholics have collected over the last 10 years, he added. "Right after giving birth to their children, many mothers mercilessly left them in rubbish cans or at hospitals," he said. According to media reports, the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs in Ho Chi Minh City received 344 babies abandoned in state-run hospitals in 2005.

In his homily at the Mass for the feast commemorating Mary's assumption into heaven, Archbishop The said trends toward self-indulgence and overemphasis on careers have pushed many mothers to commit cruel acts against human life. In addition to abortion, he cited divorce and evasion of family responsibilities. The tendency to overemphasize individual freedom, he warned, has undermined marriage, family values and the moral foundations of society.  "It is heartbreaking to see so many social evils alongside achievements in the process of industrialization and modernization of the country," the Church leader said.

Against these trends Archbishop The asked that women "constantly try to fulfill their noble motherhood and be brave enough to bear witness to the Good News, so they can contribute to the building of a civilization of love." He urged people to follow the example of the Blessed Mother, who "lived in complete trust in God and who can recreate within us a bright conscience and a loving heart."

Concelebrating the Aug. 15 Mass, which was held in the chapel of the Marian shrine due to rain, were two other bishops, an abbot and 90 priests. Pilgrims had to stand outside in raincoats or under umbrellas for the liturgy. Many could only listen to the Mass on loudspeakers, because thousands of people had been surrounding the chapel since the previous night.

A young man and his girlfriend, both from northern Vietnam, told UCA News they appreciated Archbishop The's calls, and they promised to "respect and defend the culture of life."

Marie Tran Thi An, 64, who came from neighboring Da Nang diocese, was praying all night in her rain-soaked clothes at the Marian statue. "This is an opportunity for me to offer God and Our Blessed Mother my sacrifices for all my sins," she told UCA News. Father Jacques Le Si Hien, rector of the La Vang shrine, told UCA News more and more pilgrims are coming to the shrine, especially on the feast of the Assumption. "We are expecting the local government to return all the land of the shrine to meet people's religious needs." Currently it is able to use only 10 hectares of its land, which covers almost 24 hectares, he added.
Vietnam Grants Amnesty to 2 Christian Prisoners
Commemorates End of War With U.S.
HANOI, Vietnam, MAY 20, 2005

Vietnam released 7,750 prisoners, including two Christian prisoners of conscience, on the 30th anniversary of the country's reunification. Father Pham Ngoc Lien and Mennonite Le Thi Hong Lien were granted amnesty by President Tran Duc Luong Due, reported Amnesty International. "The anticipated release of these two people, both in poor health, is long overdue and a welcome, positive step," said Amnesty International. "However, we once again call for the Vietnamese authorities to release all prisoners of conscience and to stop incarcerating political and religious activists for exercising their fundamental human rights to freedom of expression, association and religion."

Father Pham Ngoc Lien, 63, is a member of the congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix. He had spent 18 years of a 20-year sentence in prison, and was among a group of 23 Catholic monks and priests arrested in May 1987 during raids on Thu Duc monastery, near Ho Chi Minh City. The monks were accused of "conducting propaganda to oppose the socialist regime and undermine the policy of solidarity," reported Amnesty International.

All have been released except for Brother Nguen Thien Phung, who will remain in Z30A prison, in Dong Nai province. Le Thi Hong Lien is a 21-year-old Bible teacher with the Mennonite Christian Church in Vietnam, who was arrested in June 2004 for "resisting a person performing his official duty" during a demonstration, explained the international rights organization.

Vietnam has allowed some Buddhist monks to return to the country after 40 years of exile, but the state continues to exercise total and oppressive control on religions, reported AsiaNews.

Last September, in its 2004 report on religious freedom, the U.S. State Department included Vietnam among the countries that are "object of particular concern."

There are 6 million Catholics among the 7 million Christians of Vietnam, whose population of close to 80 million includes 50 million Buddhists, and 4 million followers of the Cao Dai religion. ZE05052021
Our Lady of Lavang Shrine

During much of the 18th century, the nation of Vietnam was embattled in various struggles for power and domination. The northern regions of the kingdom fell under the authority of the lords of the Trinh family, while in the southern realm the Nguyen lords took power. As the eighteenth century drew toward its close, both of their rules were shaken and threatened by peasant uprisings and emerging rebel forces.

The strongest among the many uprisings was led by the three brothers from Tay Son. In short order, they overthrew the Nguyen lords and defeated the Trinh lords to restore national unity for the first time since the decline of the Le dynasty. A Tay Son brother was enthroned to be King Quang Trung. In 1792 he passed away and left the throne to his son who became King Canh Thinh.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Anh continued his insurgency in trying to reclaim his throne. Earlier in his run from the Tay Son rebels in 1777, he found refuge on Phu Quoc Island, where Monsignor Pierre Pigneau de Behaine of the Society of Foreign Missions directed a seminary for youths from neighboring countries. The bishop persuaded him to seek help from King Louis XVI of France.

King Canh Thinh knew that Nguyen Anh received support from the French missionary and worried that the Vietnamese Catholics would also endorse his reign. He began to restrict the practice of Catholicism in the country. On August 17, 1798, King Canh Thinh issued an anti-Catholic edict and an order to destroy all Catholic churches and seminaries. A most grievous persecution of Vietnamese Catholics and missionaries began and lasted until 1886. Even after Nguyen Anh succeeded in reclaiming his throne as King Gia Long (1802-1820), his successors, King Minh Mang (1820-1840), King Thieu Tri (1841-1847) and King Tu Duc (1847-1884), the last Nguyen emperor, continued the vehement campaign against Catholics, ordering punishments that ranged from branding their faces to death by various cruel methods for Vietnamese Catholics and missionary priests.

It was amidst this great suffering that the Lady of Lavang came to the people of Vietnam. The name Lavang was believed to be originated in the name of the deep forest in the central region of Vietnam (now known as Quang Tri City) where there was an abundance of a kind of trees named La' Vang. It was also said that its name came from the Vietnamese meaning of the word "Crying Out" to denote the cries for help of people being persecuted.

The first apparition of the Lady of Lavang was noted in 1798, when the persecution of Vietnamese Catholics began. Many Catholics from the nearby town of Quang Tri sought refuge in the deep forest of Lavang. A great number of these people suffered from the bitter cold weather, lurking wild beasts, jungle sickness and starvation. At night, they often gathered in small groups to say the rosary and to pray. Unexpectedly, one night they were visited by an apparition of a beautiful Lady in a long cape, holding a child in her arms, with two angels at her sides. The people recognized the Lady as Our Blessed Mother.

Our Blessed Mother comforted them and told them to boil the leaves from the surrounding trees to use as medicine. She also told them that from that day on, all those who came to this place to pray, would get their prayers heard and answered. This took place on the grass area near the big ancient banyan tree where the refugees were praying. All those who were present witnessed this miracle. After this first apparition, the Blessed Mother continued to appear to the people in this same place many times throughout the period of nearly one hundred years of religious persecution. Among many groups of Vietnamese Catholics that were burnt alive because of their faith was a group of 30 people who were seized after they came out of their hiding place in the forest of Lavang. At their request, they were taken back to the little chapel of Lavang and were immolated there on its ground.

From the time the Lady of Lavang first appeared, the people who took refuge there erected a small and desolate chapel in her honor. During the following years, Her name was spread among the people in the region to other places. Despite its isolated location in the high mountains, groups of people continued to find ways to penetrate the deep and dangerous jungle to worship the Lady of Lavang. Gradually, the pilgrims that came with axes, spears, canes, and drums to scare away wild animals were replaced by those holding flying flags, flowers and rosaries. The pilgrimages went on every year despite the continuous persecution campaigns.

In 1886, after the persecution had officially ended, Bishop Gaspar ordered a church to be built in honor of the Lady of Lavang. Because of its precarious location and limited funding, it took 15 years for the completion of the church of Lavang. It was inaugurated by Bishop Gaspar in a solemn ceremony that participated by over 12,000 people and lasted from August 6th to 8th, 1901. The bishop proclaimed the Lady of Lavang as the Protectorate of the Catholics. In 1928, a larger church was built to accommodate the increasing number of pilgrims. This church was destroyed in the summer of 1972 during the Vietnam war.

The history of the Lady of Lavang continues to gain greater significance as more claims from people whose prayers were answered were validated. In April of 1961, the Council of Vietnamese Bishops selected the holy church of Lavang as the National Sacred Marian Center . In August of 1962, Pope John XXIII elevated the church of Lavang to The Basilica of Lavang. On June 19, 1988, Pope John Paul II in the canonizing ceremony of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, publicly and repeatedly recognized the importance and significance of the Lady of Lavang and expressed a desire for the rebuilding of the Lavang Basilica to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first apparition of the Lady of Lavang in August of 1998.

On 11/27/2000 the shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, on the front lawn of St John Vianney Church, was blessed by Archbishop Thomas C. Kelly. The marble figures of Mary and the dragon were sculpted in Vietnam. The statue of Mary will be placed on top of the dragon figure and the shrine also will include walkways and benches.