Report on Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe’s historical visit in Hue:

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe: “I have been in Americas, Europe and even Asia, but nowhere I witness that such devotion as that in Vietnam”

“The Lord loves Vietnamese people and bestows on you great Faith.”

The Vatican delegation in its second leg to Vietnam landed Phu Bai Airpot, Hue on November 30, 2005 at 13:35PM from Hanoi.

Host delegation from the Archdiocese of Hue gathered at the airport since 12:30PM with various musical instruments, along with Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth who held flowers and wore Cardinal Sepe’s picture. At 13:00PM local time, delegation of priests and faithful from the Diocese of Kontum were also in attendance with variety of colors from different ethnic groups such as Rongao, Jarai, and Bahnar, bustled with their gongs which rhythmically echoed theirs joyful sound.

This time, Vatican delegation includes Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of Evangelization of Peoples; Msgr. Barnabe Nguyen Van Phuong, Chief Secretariat in charge of Asian Affairs at the Congregation of Propaganda Fide; and the Treasurer of University of Urban. Accompanied with Vatican delegation were the Archbishop of Hanoi, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet and some reporters. Bishops of the metropolitan Archdiocese of Hue which include Hue, Quy Nhon, Nha Trang, Kontum, Buon Ma Thuoc were also at the airport to welcome Vatican delegation.

Cardinal Sepe walked through the rows of children welcoming him and was surrounded by young women from ethnic minority groups half walking and half dancing with their joyful gongs to show their deep appreciation for the Cardinal’s visit. The moment, when the cardinal stopped and caressed two children accompanying their mom who also a senior of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth, has warmed up the love of the father and son.

At 14:00PM local time, the Cardinal stood at the vestibule of Hue Catholic Center and began to address the crowd of faithful in their Vietnamese language: “Good afternoon Archbishop Stephaneus (the faithful claps their hands), Bishops, priests, sisters (pointing to the sisters), and all the faithful!” Several rounds of applause showing deep appreciation to the Cardinal after each of his unfamiliar Vietnamese sentences were spoken out. He then spoke in Italian with Msgr. Phuong’s interpretation. The Cardinal affirmed that the Lord has loved Vietnamese peoples and bestowed on them His great Faith. The Cardinal gave a five minute speech to the faithful and then left to see the Hue’s government authority.

“Act as a Witness of Joy and Faith of the Gospel”

At 18:00PM on the same day, Catholic faithful packed Phu Cam Catheral to witness the official welcoming ceremony and to attend Mass. Due to the unexpected prolongation of the welcoming ceremony made by the Hue authorities, Hue Catholic faithful had to live in “advent” spirit for a while. The Vatican delegation finally came to the Cathedral until 20:00PM local time.

Upon its entrance, Archbishop Stephaneus Nguyen Nhu The presented white wine and quid of betel to the Cardinal as a host (according to Vietnamese tradition, a quid of betel and areca-nut starts the ball rolling). The Cardinal tasted, and then 100 young ladies in white dresses with lighting candles in their hands from the Cathedral’s vestibule spreading out to make sparkling rays of light, along with 20 small children representing different ecclesial provinces running up to the Cardinal, wore a wreath around his neck and took his hands entering the Cathedral.

Archbishop Stephaneus made a welcoming speech. In his speech, Archbishop Stephaneus Nguyen Nhu The recalled the event of establishing the Catholic Bishops Conference in Vietnam 40 years ago and specially thanked for the love of the Holy See to Vietnam. In his reply, the Cardinal Sepe emotionally overwhelmed with the presence of all the faithful from different walks of lives surrounded by him. “I have been in Americas, Europe and even Asia, but no pious spirit witnessed like in Vietnam,” said the Cardinal.

Hue children then entertained Vatican delegation with their local Royal Music performance, the world’s largest cultural heritages. Lissome movement of hundreds of young ladies mixture with heavenly sound of the 16-chord zither in an orchestra brought the entire congregation to a unique place where God and its people came face-to-face.

The Mass was then concelebrated by the Cardinal immediately afterwards. The Cardinal opened the Mass and gave his final blessing in Latin.

In his homily, the Cardinal emphasized the grace of faith which was bestowed on Vietnamese people, and this grace had to be shared with every people. “We must become witnesses of joy and faith in our own living conditions,” said the Cardinal. How wonderful and appreciative with this reminder was! The Vietnamese Catholic Church has completed its Year of Evangelization, but as it is still its mission, therefore would never be ended. Several priests keep reminding their flocks of being witnesses for faith, but the flocks rarely get reminded that they have to be also witnesses of joy because they have God in their lives.

The Mass ended at 23:00PM. After the Mass, the Vatican delegation was again entertained by different and unique musical performances of the local faithful.

“The government has not returned the Church’s land which was confiscated.”

As scheduled, at 8:00AM on December 1, 2005 the Cardinal said a Mass along with Bishops and 80 priests at National Center of Pilgrimage of La Vang. Before the Mass, a representative from the La Vang Center recited the history and its meaning, and need for a place where Catholic and non-Catholic alike across the nation could come to pray with Our Blessed Lady of La Vang. 500,000 had come to this site during the 27th Marian Festival and Eucharistic Congress last August 2005. Problems about premises which were wastefully used by the Quang Tri government and the request to return the Church’s land were made several times by the Archbishop of Hue, were also mentioned in the statement, even though no specific result was received so far.

In his homily, the Prefect Cardinal repeated the message of Our Lady in La Vang, when Our Lady said: “You have suffered and been on short commons, I accepted your prayer. From now on, whoever comes and pray me won’t return with nothing.” From this message, the Cardinal spoke about the sufferings Christian followers had to take, but it was also a choice of “bearing the Cross,” and at the same time, the Cardinal believed that nobody would return with nothing, as promised by Our Lady. “Catholics not only keep faith, but have to live with God’s words, like Mary. And to do this, we must learn how to be firedndly with Jesus like Mary,” added the Cardinal.

After the Mass, the Cardinal hosted the consecration of a newly-built La Vang Pilgrimage House.

This afternoon at 14:00PM local time, the Cardinal will personally meet with Bishops within Hue ecclesical province; and with priests and religious along with Hue Catholic youth at 16:00PM.

(Nguyen Le Phan Anh - Translated by Anthony Le)