Many thousands attended the opening ceremony of Vietnam's Holy Jubilee Year on Monday evening, (23 November) at So Kien, 70 km South of Hanoi. Cardinal Roger Marie Élie Etchegaray, Vice-Dean of the College of Cardinals; Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, President of the French Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law Archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore; Cardinal Jean Baptise Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Saigon, 30 Vietnamese bishops of all 26 dioceses, 1200 priests including dozens of foreign priests from Europe and America; and more than 120,000 faithful of northern dioceses took part.

As night falls so early at this time of year, the ceremony began at 5.30pm with an hour long procession of Martyrs’ relics presided by Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, President of The Episcopal Conference of Vietnam.

During the procession, the congregation was reminded that in the period of 261 years, from 1625 to 1886, 53 'Edicts of Persecution of Christians' were signed by the Trinh, the Nguyen Lords and the Kings of Nguyen dynasty, one worse than the previous one. During that time, there were approximately 130,000 Christians were being victimized by these persecutions which were widespread throughout the country.

The Vietnamese Martyrs fall into several categories, with those of the Portuguese missionary era (16th century), those of the Dominican and Jesuit missionary era of the (17th century), those killed in the politically inspired persecutions of the 19th century, and those martyred during the Communist era of the 20th and 21th century.

Among an estimates 130,000 Christians, who died for their faith, a sample of 117 martyrs including 96 Vietnamese, 11 Spanish Dominicans, and 10 French members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, were beatified on four separate occasions: 64 by Pope Leo XIII on May 27, 1900, eight by Pope Pius X on May 20, 1906, 20 by Pope Pius X on May 2, 1909, 25 by Pope Pius XII on April 29, 1951.

These 117 Vietnamese Martyrs were canonized on 19 June, 1988 by Pope John Paul II in spite of strong protests by the Vietnam communist government. On 5 March 5, 2000, a young Vietnamese Martyr, Andrew Phú Yên, was beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Youth from various dioceses performed plays depicting how 117 Vietnamese Martyrs shed their blood for their faith in many different ways, by beheading, hanging, burning and other tortures.

After the procession, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi introduced cardinals and bishops who were going to concelebrate in the opening Mass, and special guests.

The grand opening ceremony was followed by the official declaration of the Jubilee by Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, President of the Holy Jubilee Committee.

Following the Mass, the Festival Opening Night started with a sea of candle lights to welcome a performance group from the Diocese of Bui Chu with 400 trumpets and drummers following the procession of 118 sisters of St Paul Congregation in Hanoi.

The celebration continued throughout the night with a pageant portraying the history of the Church in Vietnam.

The joy on the opening day of the Holy Jubilee in Vietnam, was marred by the news that Archbishop of Hanoi had submitted his resignation to the Pope. At the annual retreat of priests in Hanoi Archdiocese concluded on 14 November, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet 57, told his priests that he had submit his resignation to Pope Benedict XVI because of his deteriorating health. Some commentator say he has given in to government pressure. Nguyen The Thao, chairman of Hanoi’s People Committee has repeatedly called for the prelate’s resignation.

On Sunday morning (22 November) tens of thousands of Catholics in Hanoi packed St Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi and listened carefully to Cardinal Roger Etchegaray who concelebrated the Mass with archbishop Ngo.

During a speech after Mass, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray solemnly gave his crosier to Archbishop Joseph Ngo as a gift saying that he did not want to bring it back to Rome with him.

On Sunday evening, St Joseph's Cathedral was packed again with tens of thousands of Catholics who attended the Sunday Mass concelebrated by Cardinal Bernard Francis Law and Archbishop Joseph Ngo.

The Cardinal's sermon was applauded on several occasions. In Bac Ninh, 30km north of Hanoi, Cardinal André Armand Vingt-Trois of Paris was passionately welcomed by when he concelebrated the Mass of Christ the King with Bishop Cosma Hoang Van Dat of Bac Ninh, and Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh of Kontum.