CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF VIỆT NAM
PASTORAL LETTER ON THE YEAR OF FAITH
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
The second annual meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Việt Nam is held at the pastoral center of Thanh Hóa diocese, from 8-12 October, 2012. We would like to send all of you our greetings filled with faith and hope and love. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
With this letter we would like to share with you some information concerning the universal Church and the Church in Việt Nam, also to reflect with you about the Year of Faith after the invitation of the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
1. As you know, on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, 15th of August 2012, the Catholic Church in Việt Nam solemnly celebrated the ground breaking ceremony of a new Basilica of Our Lady of La Vang at the pilgrimage center of La Vang. It is an important work that could be accomplished only by the grace of God and with the help of all the members of God’s People, at home and oversea. With your prayers and donation, we hope that in a future not distant, we will accomplish the work of building a beloved home for Our Lady of La Vang, which is opened wide to welcome all pilgrims without distinction of religions.
2. In these days, the Holy Father Benedict XVI also convenes a Synod of Bishops in Rome, from 7-28 October, 2012, on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. Two Vietnamese bishops have attended the synod to listen and learn the precious experiences of evangelization from our sister churches all over the world, and simultaneously shared with them our experiences of faith in Việt Nam.
3. In addition, on the occasion of 40th anniversary of its estabishment, the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences will celebrate their Plenary Assembly in Xuân Lộc diocese from 18-24 November, 2012. After that, the Closing Mass will be celebrated at the Basilica of Notre Dame de Saigon on the Solemnity of Christ the King, 25th November, 2012. We ask you to pray for the Assembly that it will be celebrated successfully, develop the communion among local churches in Asia and promote evangelization in this vast continent.
Year of Faith
4. In this annual meeting, with the responsibility of guarding and cultivating the faith life of God’s People entrusted to us, we reflect on the gift of faith and the faith life of us Catholics in the current situation.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, by his pontifical letter Porta fidei, the Holy Father Benedict XVI decides to open a Year of Faith that lasts from October 11, 2012 to November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King. This year aims at calling the universal Church to rediscover their journey of faith facing the profound crisis of faith in the world today (Porta fidei, 2).
5. In Việt Nam, the majority of faithful attend Sunday Mass with fidelity. In general Catholic families still are the cradle of cultivating and transmitting the life of faith to children. For a number of people, however, religious life just means keeping tradition and custom, not as a personal conviction that motivates important decisions of life. With others, religious life is so sentimental that is limited only in practicing a number of rites and regulations. In addition, with the impact of materialism and hedonism in our times, many young Catholics feel vacillated in their faith life, and many young couples are not conscious about their responsibility of transmitting the Christian faith to their children.
Therefore, together with the universal Church, the Year of Faith must become a great opportunity for God’s People in Việt Nam to strengthen our faith life, repent and renew our commitments, return to our Lord and the Only Savior of the world (Porta fidei, 4-5). Once rediscovering the joy of faith, we will commit with greater enthusiam to the work of new evangelization, which means proclaiming the Good News to 93% of Vietnamese people who do not hear about Jesus, integrating the Gospel into various fields of life, contributing to build up a society based on the Gospel values and traditional values of our nation (Pastoral Letter 2010, 32).
6. The Christian faith embraces various aspects: profession of the faith, celebration of the faith, witness of life. We must profess our Christian faith with integrity and conviction, at the same time celebrate the faith in liturgy, especially in the Eucharist that is the source and summit of our Christian life. Additionally, the faith needs to be expressed in a life which is in accord with the content of faith and gives witness to the beauty of faith for all people (Porta fidei, 9).
To fulfill this objective, the Holy Father Benedict XVI emphasizes the importance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). In fact, in order to accept and live out the faith, every faithful needs to understand the content of the faith (Porta fidei, 11). The CCC systematically presents the fundamental content of our Catholic faith, provides a rich synthesis of the teachings the Church has received, safeguarded, and proclaimed to humankind throughout the two thousand years. Hence the CCC offers a solid standard for teaching and a real support for the faith (Porta fidei, 12). As a result, in the Year of Faith, all members of God’s People are called to study and deepen the content of faith that is presented in the CCC (Porta fidei, 11). The Vietnamese version of the CCC has been revised and officially published by the CBCV since the year 2010 and has been received positively.
The CCC is the precious result of the Second Vatican Council, and so together with the CCC, we should be more attentive to the documents of the Council. These documents offer a guiding light for an authentic renewal of the Church in the world today. In the last year, the CBCV has revised the Vietnamese version of these documents and now officially publish on the occasion of opening the Year of Faith. In this year, may the CCC and the documents of Vatican II be received and studied by all members of God’s People.
7. The Year of Faith also invites us to review our Catholic faith in its long history, from Our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph to the Apostles, the Martyrs and the innumerable Christians who have lived and bore witness to the faith in all circumstances of life (Porta fidei, 13). In Việt Nam, how can we forget the living examples of Vietnamese Martyrs and so many witnesses of faith, “those who have given witness to the Way of Love through their lives filled with the spirit of prayer and also with the sacrifice of life” (Pastoral Letter 2010, 48)? This reviewing and remembering helps us appreciate the legacy of faith inherited from our ancestors, and simultaneously urges us to confirm and give witness to the faith in every situation of life.
In the actual situation, Catholics need to present our faith by the works of charity. Faith and Charity needs and support one another: “It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ and it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life” (Porta fidei, 14). It is what the world is in particular need of today : the credible witness of people who are enlightened by the word of the Lord and kindled by His love in their thinking and living (Porta fidei, 15).
The Church in Việt Nam celebrates the year of faith
8. To fulfill these objectives, we want to have some recommendations :
The CBCV will solemnly celebrate the Opening Mass of the Year of Faith at the pastoral center of Thanh Hóa diocese, on the 12th of October, 2012. All dioceses will have the Opening Mass on the feast of Saint Luke Evangelist, October 18. And all parishes will celebrate the Opening Mass of this important year on Mission Sunday, October 21, 2012. Bishops, however, can choose another date for the celebration, for the good of people.
Throughout this year every diocese will have pastoral initiatives according to the concrete situation of the local church, which aim at helping the faithful strengthen and deepen the faith, repent and renew their Christian life, as well as give living witness to the faith in their environment.
Accompanying with dioceses, we wish the Conference Committees will furnish necessary materials in their respective fields, which the local church can use for their pastoral activities.
9. In particular, we want to address the clergy, religious men and women, and Catholic families.
Faith formation is a responsibility that is so closely connected with the priestly ministry that “priests owe to everybody the transmission of the truth of the Gospel they have received from the Lord” (Presbyterorum Ordinis, 4). Therefore in communion with the diocesan bishop and the presbyterate, may priests generously spend their time and energy and enthusiam to this indispensable task, especially in preaching the Good News and teaching catechism for youth and teen-agers. We must be more attentive to the formation of catechists who directly collaborate with us in transmitting the faith to the young generation.
In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit, “propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all, and pursuing the perfection of charity in the service of the Kingdom” (CCC, 916). More than anyone else, religious men and women are witnesses of faith by their consecrated life and their apostolic activities in various fields and circumstances of life. May the year of faith give you a new impetus for your witnesses and missions you have committeed.
Throughout the history of the Catholic Church in Việt Nam, families always are the cradles of transmitting and nurturing the life of faith to children, the first school of catechism for young generations, and the milieu of forming good Christians who are strong in faith and examplary in moral life. Nowadays, even though facing with many difficulties of life, we urge you to keep and promote this excellent tradition of our Catholic families. Let us make our homes the temple of God, the school of catechism, and the household of love. It is our most concrete and effective way to contribute to the new evangelization our Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted to the Church and each one of us as well.
10. To conclude this letter, we want to invite you to look up the Virgin Mary, the most blessed among women, because “she believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). In the day of Annunctiation, she taught us a humble and obedient faith: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). With hasty steps of the visitation to Elisabeth, she impelled us to live out a faith that is committed to proclaim the Good News of salvation to everybody. Standing near the cross of Jesus, she gave us an example of a faith filled with hope, in all circumstances of life.
With Our Blessed Mother and by Her intercession, let us enter the Year of Faith in praising God for the gift of faith and living out the Gospel with joy and enthusiasm, so that we contribute to spread a civilization of love and life in our beloved country.
Thanh Hóa, the 11th of October, 2012
+ Cosme Hoàng Văn Đạt + Peter Nguyễn Văn Nhơn
Bishop of Bắc Ninh Archbishop of Hà Nội
General Secretary of the CBCV President of the CBCV
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