Proclaiming the Holy Year of the Vietnamese Martyrs
Dear brothers and sisters,
On the June 19, 1988, the Holy Father, Saint John Paul II, gladly canonized 117 Vietnamese martyrs. In this year of 2018, The Catholic Church in Vietnam joyfully celebrates the 30-year anniversary of this event. To celebrate this event for the sake of God's people, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam asked the Apostolic Penitentiary for the opening of this Holy Year of the Martyrs to show the devotion of God's people in Vietnam toward the Martyrs. The Apostolic Penitentiary has grated this wish of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam. Therefore, we are writing this letter to you to announce to you this Holy Year of the Vietnamese Martyrs, which will commence on the June 19, 2018 and conclude on the November 24, 2018.
In order to bring abundant spiritual fruit for each family, community, parish, as well as the whole Vietnamese Catholic Church, we would like to inform you of some events that will happen in this holy time:
I. In the Opening Rite (June 19, 2018) and the Closing Rite (November 24, 2018) of this Holy Year: Each Arch/diocese will celebrate the Opening Mass and the Closing Mass in its own Arch/diocese.
In each Archdiocese, for the Holy Year, the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Vietnam has appointed three Pilgrim Centers: the Basilica of So Kien (Archdiocese Hanoi),Our Lady of La Vang (Archdiocese of Hue), and Ba Giong in My Tho Diocese (Archdiocese of Sai Gon).
In addition to these, in each diocese, the bishop will appoint one church or one Pilgrim Center for the people to come and show their devotion to the Martyrs during this holy time.
In this holy time, all Christians will receive a plenary indulgence if they:
• Celebrate the Opening Mass and Closing Mass.
• Visit one of the appointed Pilgrim Centers.
Additionally, the Vietnamese Catholic Church encourages her children to do good deeds in this Holy Year; specifically,
• Caritas activities: Meeting Jesus Christ by visiting the sick, the poor, the elderly, the needy, the widowed, and the disabled (Mt 25, 34-36).
• Almsgiving, praying, and fasting by reducing excessive money expenditures on things that are not really needed so as to better help the poor, build churches, build shrines, and to improve the whole society.
II. The Holy Year of 2018 also invites us to follow the witnesses of Vietnamese Martyrs by witnessing to the faith. This practice will increase the knowledge of the Martyrs as well as the history of the Catholic Church in Vietnam. Moreover, this practice will also encourage Christians to follow the life-giving witnesses of the Martyrs. We highly encourage each parish, religious order, as well as local communities to open up discussions and to give presentations about the Vietnamese Martyrs so that God's people can know more about the life of the Martyrs. As a consequence, all Christians will come to love the Martyrs more and to follow in their footstep as witness to Gospel of God.
As a companion to your learning about the lives of the Martyrs, the Office of Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam will publish the small book The Witness of Vietnamese Martyrs. This book is about the lives and the witness of the Martyrs: how they shed their blood for the Faith. We wish that this small book will be welcomed by all of you.
III. The Holy Year also reminds us that we have to live life-giving lives by imitating the Martyrs in our own particular situations. By doing so, we will achieve the "white martyrdom." By accepting even death for the Faith, the Vietnamese Martyrs proclaimed the Gospel before the kings, the mandarins and all people-- that the Kingdom of God was "a treasure buried in a field" (Mt 13: 44) and "a pearl of great price" (Mt 13: 46) so that when they found it, they were ready to sell everything to buy it (Mt 13: 46). Nowadays, all Christians are called to live this life-giving witness of the Martyrs by living a just life in his or her own vocation. In this way, you are witnessing to the Gospel of God.
For those who live the vocation of marriage, let all the members of Catholic families give up their unjust desires as well as their selfish thoughts so that they can proclaim the Gospel in their vocation of marriage.
For those who live out a religious vocation, let all of you come to understand your own sexuality so that each of you can live a healthy and chaste life suitable to your vocations. By doing so, you are also witnessing to the Kingdom of God and "waking up" the world, as Pope Francis once said.
For all priests, let each of you be persistent in the vows you took when you were ordained. May you be zealous for your ministries that Jesus Christ has entrusted to you through the Church. May you also be humble and faithful to God so that you can witness to Jesus Christ-- the High Priest and the Good Shepherd who "lays down his life for the sheep" (Jn 10: 11). By doing so, you will proclaim the Good News for all the nations in all situations.
In closing, we invite all of you to come to the Virgin Mary--the Lady of all the martyrs-- to show your devotion to her. Above all, Mary completely gave up her plan for her life so that the Will of God could be done in her life. She accepted the plan of God and persistently followed it to the end. She cooperated with the Holy Spirit by Her "Fiat." By doing so, "the Word became flesh" (Jn 1: 14).
Entering this Holy Year, let us follow in the footstep of Mary by accepting the will of God the Father, by being united with Jesus Christ, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit so that we can ready our souls to receive rich blessings from God in this holy time.
May the Vietnamese Martyrs intercede for all of you before the throne of God so that you can live this Holy Year in true holiness. We wish that you will receive abundantly the spiritual blessings that God will give you in this joyful time. Let each of you use these special graces to serve God and others so that you can promote the proclamation of God's Holy Gospel in our country.
Archdiocese of Hue, 1st of June 2018
+ Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh
Archbishop of Hue archdiocese
The President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam
+ Peter Nguyen Van Kham
Bishop of My Tho Diocese
Secretary-General of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam
(Translated into English by Msgr. Joseph Trịnh Minh Trí)