Message of the 2010 Congress of God’s People in Vietnam, presided by CBCV
1. In the Jubilee 2010, on the occasion of commemorating 350 years of establishing the first two Apostolic Vicariates and 50 years of founding the Vietnamese Hierarchy, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam has convoked the Congress of the People of God, from November 21 to 25, 2010, at the Pastoral Center of Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese.
Present at the Congress were 32 bishops, 300 representatives of priests, religious, and the lay faithful from 26 dioceses and religious congregations in Vietnam. The Congress was so honored to welcome representatives coming from the Church in Canada, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, the United States, Thailand, and representatives of overseas Catholic Vietnamese communities.
Gathering here from all parts of the country as brothers and sisters in the same family, we realized that this really was a time of grace and precious experience that God has granted to the Church in Vietnam. Let us be grateful to God for this great blessing. At the same time, we would like to send our most sincere thanks to all faithful here in Vietnam and abroad, knowing that throughout the Congress, we have been accompanied by their prayers and opinions they contributed to the Congress.
2. The Congress was solemnly opened on the Feast of Christ the King, November 21, 2010 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception of Saigon, with the participation of a great number of faithful. Celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King to begin the Congress, helped us to be more strongly convinced of the mission of the Church. Christ founded the Kingdom of God as “the kingdom of truth and life, kingdom of holiness and beatitude, kingdom of justice, love and peace.” The Church of Christ is present in human history with the mission of proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit. Similarly, the Church of Christ in Vietnam has the mission of announcing the Good News of God’s Kingdom, continuing Christ’s mission of love and service and fostering the culture of life and civilization of love in this beloved country.
3. That mission demands the Church in Vietnam to be in constant renewal in order to really become the Church of Christ in Vietnam. We strongly believe that the Church in Vietnam did not come into existence out of human initiatives or efforts, but totally comes from God, lives by God and tends toward God. Therefore, in all circumstances, the most important thing is to strengthen, renew, and deepen the communion of each of the faithful as well as each family and community with God through the life of prayer, listening to the Word of God and celebrating the Holy Eucharist. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist should become the center of life of the Church in Vietnam. To realize this, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist needs to be extended by prayer and meditation of the Word of God and by deepening the truth of faith. We hope that in the coming years, the Church in Vietnam will increase the propagation and study of the Word of God by different means, so that the Word of God may become the food of souls, the compass and guiding light that illumines all decisions and options of the faithful.
4. The Congress also believes that, to really become the Church of Christ in the midst of this country, the Church in Vietnam must integrate into its people's culture and history. In more than four centuries of its existence in Vietnam, the Church has greatly contributed to the life and development of the country. It was the first Catholic Vietnamese who adapted the Roman alphabet to transcribe the Vietnamese language which is popularly used today. Quite a number of talented people and scholars have been educated at, and graduated from, Catholic institutions. And it was the Catholics who introduced humane values such as the respect for life and for human dignity, the equality, charity, spirit of service and sacrifice, and made these values penetrating into social life. Continuing the work of its ancestors, the Church today should also get involved into building the country in all aspects: cultural, social, economic and political, because the Church knows that “for Catholics, being patriotic and loving their people is not just a natural sentiment, but also a demand of the Gospel.” When engaging herself in building the society of this world, the Church “never wants to take the place of the government, but only hopes that through dialogue and mutual respect and collaboration, the Church can participate in the life of the country, in order to serve everybody.” That is also a proof of the true beauty of the Gospel, using the expression of Pope Benedict XVI, in his exhortation to all of us, priests, religious and faithful: “By the life founded on charity, honesty, respect for common good, you should prove that good Catholics are also good citizens.”
5. The Church in Vietnam should also renew herself by trying to build the Church as a family, in which all are in communion as brothers and sisters of the same family, equal in the vocation of being human persons and children of God, sharing the same mission and responsibility, even though they are carried out in different tasks and walks of life. This communion is both a demand and a necessary witness that the Church must show to all people as Christ prayed fervently: “ May they all be one as you Father are in me and I am in you. May they be one in us; so the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17, 21). During the Congress, we really experience this fraternal atmosphere of communion when all members of the People of God lived together as brothers and sisters in one family, together listened to the Word of God through prayer, shared with one another their experiences and reflections on the Church through speeches, interventions and group discussions, with the concern to build the Church according to the will of God. The presence of other sister Churches further opened the horizon of communion in the Church of Christ. We hope that this fraternal atmosphere will expand and be absorbed deeply into the life of the Church in Vietnam at all levels, in each family, parish, religious community and diocese.
In order to manifest the Church as a family, the Congress appeals to all members of the People of God to closely collaborate with one another in unity and charity. The faithful should actively take part in the life and mission of the Church with their professional skills that God has given to them. Catholic families are called to sustain and solidify the vocation of christian marriage, to build their family as the Church at home, cradle of life, home of love and first school of integral formation. Young people are called to participate more in all activities of the Church and give the vigor and youthfulness to her life. Family and parish should be particularly interested in educating children in humane virtues, so they may become useful citizens for society and the Church. We earnestly hope that religious will be living signs and witnesses to God’s unconditional love for us, especially to the less fortunate in society. The Congress emphasized the role of bishops and priests in the Church. The renewal of the Church should begin with the clergy, therefore we expect that Vietnamese bishops and priests not only be good adminstrators and managers, but first and foremost they should be men of God and good pastors, who are closely united with the Lord in prayer, so as to be able to serve their congregations according the example of our most holy Lord, respecting and promoting the role of faithful in the spirit of dialogue and cooperation.
6. In order to carry out Christ’s mission of love and service in the present situation, the Church must be a catalyst for the culture of life and civilization of love in the country of Vietnam. In the last two decades, together with the economic development, there have appeared many things that may imperil the future of our nation. Abortion, divorce, drug addiction, prostitution, increasing gap between the rich and the poor, injustice, exploitation, corruption, destruction of the environment… all seem to escalate and are concrete signs of the “culture of death.” Convinced that the Good News is “leaven of liberty and progress, source of fraternal love, of mercy and peace”, the Catholic Vietnamese especially have the mission of building the culture of life and civilization of love in this country. At the same time, we are ready for sincere dialogue and healthy cooperation with all people of good will, without distinction of religions and political viewpoints, in order to serve the integral development of all people in society, especially the poor and the abandoned. In that spirit, we propose that the Vietnamese Government open the door to allow religions to take part in institutional education and health care, for the good of citizens and of all the nation.
7. Faced with the noble mission received from Jesus Christ: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:13.14) we acknowledge our many mistakes and shortcomings, and humbly beg God’s forgiveness and the pardon of all people, whether they belong to the Church or not. The Church also remembers so many sufferings, injustices, persecutions that the Church has endured throughout history, not to foster hatred but to forgive and pray for those who have persecuted the Church, following the example of Christ, who completed our salvation through poverty and persecution. The Vietnamese Martyrs are both models and motives urging the Church in Vietnam to realize Christ’s mission of love and service in its country.
8. The Congress of the People of God in Vietnam comes to an end but opens new hopes, which spring from and will be completed in Jesus Christ, Our Lord. All reflections and recommendations of the Congress will be made into propositions, which will form the material of the post-Congress document, so as to offer pastoral orientations and action plans for the Church in Vietnam for years to come. "Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus!" (Apoc. 22: 20): this is both a prayer and an expression of longing and hope of the Congress. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Lavang and the Vietnamese Martyrs, O Lord, may You come and dwell in our souls and transform us into Your true disciples. May You come and live in each Catholic family, so the family may become a community of worship, love, union, and witness to the Good News of the Kingdom. Please, come and unite all of us in the same mission of love and service. We are resolved to build the culture of life and civilization of love, so Your face may shine upon our country. Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus!
Issued at the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Center
On the Solemnity of the Vietnamese Martyrs, 2010
The Congress of God’s People in Vietnam, 2010