VIETNAMESE Catholics from throughout Brisbane archdiocese will be out in force on Saturday, November 21 to do what would have had hundreds of thousands of their ancestors tortured and killed.
As they gather to profess their faith and celebrate Mass they will know their forebears were martyred for doing the same.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge will be principal celebrant at the annual Vietnamese Martyrs Mass at the Vietnamese Catholic Community Centre in Inala on Saturday.
It coincides with the feast of St Andrew Dung-Lac and companions on November 24, in honour of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862.
Ken Nuynh, a volunteer with Brisbane’s Vietnamese Catholic Community, said many more had been martyred for their faith at that time.
“The Vatican estimated the number of Vietnamese martyrs at between 130,000 and 300,000 who were killed in the Christian persecutions of the 19th Century,” Mr Nuynh said.
“The tortures these individuals underwent were considered by the Vatican to be among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom.
“The torturers cut off limbs joint by joint, tore flesh with red hot tongs and used drugs to enslave the minds of the victims.”
The 117 martyrs recognised by the Holy See were representative of the much larger group of Vietnamese people whose profession of faith cost them their lives.
Another martyr, Andrew Phu Yen, who was baptised in Vietnam in 1641, was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
Mr Nuynh said Brisbane Vietnamese Catholics gathered each year as a united community to remember and celebrate the sacrifices of the martyrs.
“During this special Mass, we also pray to God to guide our community and to grant us faith, determination and courage to follow in the martyrs’ footsteps,” he said.
“It is very important for the Vietnamese people because it expresses our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, because in Vietnam there’s still oppression of freedom in the practise of religion.
“Back in the 19th century, Christians were persecuted (and) right now I think some persecution is still going on, and there are still some restrictions.”
Mr Nuynh said people would come from all over Brisbane for Saturday’s Mass, with 1000 to 1500 expected to attend.
A procession at 4.30pm around the grounds of the Vietnamese Catholic Centre at 42 Lilac Street, Inala, will precede the 5pm Mass.
A group of about 250 young people will be part of the procession.
By Peter Bugden