Catholicism in Vietnam

The History of Jesus Christ

Jesus (also called Christ which means king or Messiah) was born in Israel 2000 years ago. Modern civilization marks his birth by dividing time B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini – or the year of our Lord). For his first thirty years, Jesus lived a traditional Jewish life, working as a carpenter. During this time, all of Israel was under Caesar’s Roman dictatorship, including Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and Nazareth, where he was raised.

In his thirties, Jesus began his public teaching and display of recorded miracles, yet still never traveled more than 200 miles from his birthplace. Over a three year period, despite his efforts to keep a low profile, Jesus’ reputation spread nation wide. The Roman governors and rulers of Israel’s provinces and the leaders of the Jewish people (the religious counsels) took note of him.

Many have asked “Who is Jesus Christ and ” Jesus’ most controversial act was that he repeatedly claimed to be God, which was a direct violation of the Jewish law. Therefore the religious leaders asked the Roman government to execute him. In each of several official trials, the Romans found that he was not guilty of breaking any Roman law. Even the Jewish leaders recognized that other than Jesus’ claim to be God, Jesus followed the Jewish law perfectly. Still the religious leaders, using the argument of political disfavor, persuaded Pilate, a Roman governor of the Southern province of Israel, to authorize an execution.

Jesus was brutally tortured and then hung by his hands, which were nailed to a horizontal wooden beam (cross). This method of execution restricted the airflow to his lungs, killing him in three hours.

However, according to more than 500 witnesses, Jesus returned from the dead three days later, and over the next 40 days journeyed in both the southern and northern provinces of Israel. To many, this was conclusive proof that Jesus’ claims to be God were real. Then Jesus returned to Jerusalem, the city where he was recently executed, and according to witnesses, he left the earth alive by rising up into the sky.

How did Catholic arrive into Vietnam?

From the 15th,16th century, the Europeans have known our country, but until the early 17th century, the West people began dealing with the Vietnamese mainly through trading. Naturally, Eastern Europe who set their foots on the ground in Vietnam first. They were Portuguese from Austria, who arrived to Vietnam by northeast monsoon, The Spanish from Philippine, The Dutch ,British came to Vietnam from India. Europeans began to contact the South in Dang Trong (Cochinchine) and later gradually moving northward. European had trade and opened first store in Hoi An (Faifo), where Japanese and Chinese have come before. Every time they came, they brought goods to sell, then on returning they bought  local products such as silk, cinnamon, elephant tusk.

The Nguyen Lord ruled in the South and fighting with Trinh Lord in the North. Nguyen Lord took advantage of the Europeans to help them beat the enemy, so they were very kind hospitality, to allow the commercial transportation business and built up their relationship with Portuguese. One of Portuguese who  named Jean de la Croix in 1614 came near Hue opened gun foundry (lò đúc súng) , today is known as the “Phố Lò Đúc” in ward 8 – Hue and Lord allowed Portuguese to built  church and welcome to Catholic teachers who wished to preach and carried on religious services. Many documents mentioned that thanks to the Portuguese helps, Nguyen Lord military power was more advanced than Trinh Lord in fighting during this time. They were not only transferring techniques of gun foundry but also war strategy, knowledge on construction, administration, medicine and so on to the South.

Alexandre de Rhodes and modern Vietnamese language:

Not until 1624, when a French missionary, an prominent scholar,talented Father Alexandre de Rhodes came to Vietnam, the Catholic  passed a major turning point in Vietnam. He worked both North and South of Vietnam in 22 years. He mastered the language, history and geography of Vietnam, especially the conversion of Vietnamese language using the Latin alphabet. With a few changes and revisions later, the Vietnamese language was officially to become the national language from the end of the 1910s and popularized by Ho Chi Minh in 1030s until today in Vietnam, a only country in Asia has most perfect localized western language system and made a boots for further development, high literacy and easier adopted Western culture, religion, philosophy than any other countries in the region.

The last Dynasty of Vietnam and Catholic in relation:

Late 17th century to the time of King Gia Long in 1802, activities of Catholic missionaries were often difficult. The ups and downs of Catholic which much depended on the King’s sympathy or antipathy to this religion and of course mainly from close mandarins who were sometime very conservative in protection of tradition . Some times, they allowed missionaries to live for preaching but other times they expelled them out of their territory or even executed them as what happened with 3 Martyrs (Thánh Tử đạo) Andrew, Inhaxo, and Vincent during (1644-1645).

Catholicism and Tay Son Brothers.

Nguyen Nhac, Nguyen Hue and Nguyen Lu, the three Tay Son brothers (1788-1802), Although the Tay Son brothers were not opposed to Catholicism, most of the missionaries had to leave Vietnam because of war. During this time, the activities of the Catholic were not much but Catholic was not prohibited during this time.

Why did Tay Son mistreat Catholic?
Policy for Catholic has gradually changed when Bishop of Adran (Bá Đa Lộc) who then publicly supported Prince Nguyen Anh, the opponent of the Tay Son. Tay Son began persecuting the Catholic believers and teachers such as churches were destroyed, Vietnamese priests and believer almost had to hide in forest or arrested. In nine years under the Tay Son, number of Catholic people decreased from 100,000 down to 60,000 in the south.

Ba Da Loc Priest in favor of Nguyen Anh

Eventually, Nguyen Anh was successfully eradicated Tây Sơn. During 18 years of King Gia Long, the Catholic was in peace and had development even the King was non-believer. He also did not give any privileges to the Church. He often expressed gratitude for the missionary Adran Ba Da Loc , who was dedicated to helping the king until his death. During the reign of King Gia Long, the Catholic Church has 320,000 followers, 119 priests in Vietnam, 15 foreign missionaries and three bishops. It is worth noting that 80% of Catholic priests and officials were northern Vietnamese!

The most difficult time of Catholic in Vietnam

After Gia Long King, the Catholic Church went through a darkest period in history under King Minh Mang, Thieu Tri and Tu Duc (1833-1883). King Minh Mang banned Catholic activities in the whole territory on January 6 in 1833.

This commandment followed by King Thieu Tri and Tu Duc that had any illegally evil religious  practices (tà đạo) would to be put to death. Priests or followers who did not convert their beliefs then were engraved on faces but at least they were not to be killed. Many foreign missionaries, many teachers in Vietnam were killed because local authorities who accused them of anti-King’s order or anti-emperor activities. May of them were accused as spies of foreign invaders.The kings of Vietnam had opposition to Catholic because they want to protect ancestor worship belief. They claimed that Catholics do not worship Ancestor therefore  Catholic was a threat to the tradition of the country.

Another reason was political reasons because the obvious policy of colony’s expansion such as England had colonized India and Burma and France wanted to expand their presence in Asia after India lost to British hands. The missionaries were regarded as spies and faithful Catholics Vietnamese who were regarded not hesitate to betray their country for religious freedom.
In 1862 a peace treaty (hòa ước 1862), the Emperor of Vietnam was forced to admit the domination of France administration and religion as said: “The South must let the French missionaries having freedom to preach, and to allow people practice any religion they want”

Influence of Catholic in Vietnam today.
In fact, the Catholic religion is an most organized system in Vietnam today. With 8 million Catholics in the whole country today. Catholic community is the largest and most powerful society of Vietnam. In addition to the teaching and training of local leaders, the Catholic have a large system and effective system of education and social activity. Catholic was extremely developed and expanded during the Vietnam war because receiving great favor from Ngo Dinh Diem government. President family was very strong believer and also this led to his death in 1962 during the chaos. However, the event had not stop to make thousands of Vietnamese have become catholic every year. Catholic has had great influence in the intellectuals and spiritual virtues . Particularly, Catholic in Vietnam has got a special grant from Roma allowed to worship ancestor in order to remain a good tradition of Vietnamese custom.

Ten commandments of God (10 điều răn của Đức Chúa Trời)

  1. You shall have no other Gods but me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it.
  3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  4. You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
  5. Respect your father and mother.
  6. You must not kill.
  7. You must not commit adultery.
  8. You must not steal.
  9. You must not give false evidence against your neighbour.
  10. You must not be envious of your neighbour’s goods. You shall not be envious of his house nor his wife, nor anything that belongs to your neighbour.

In summary, Catholic arrived much later in Vietnam society compare to Buddhism. However, Catholic has been quickly expanded and inspired on Vietnamese.This happened because Vietnamese Buddhist characteristics which  never hate or dismiss any different beliefs in history. Vietnamese were always gentle, nice and hospitable to all missionaries or Westerners who were first arrived.  But just because many of the unfortunate misunderstandings specially the continuous civil war in Vietnam had put missionaries to opponent site in certain period that let to execution, mistreatment rather political reason than religious belief. In addition , Catholic automatic input a strange tradition was not wise in a country that had deeply  root in ancestor worship. This belief was taken as a good reason to mistreat Catholic believer for long period. The present of Westerners with clear objective of expansion their colonies that prevented many Vietnamese from recognition of the good religion and good belief for everyone.

Thank you for your reading!

Any question, please call number 0903857607.

Hong Duc


About Insiderjourneyguidehelpdesk

Local guide manager-Vietnam
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