Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Visit of Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham

Annuntio vobis gaudiam magnam. Habemus Cardinalem!

Only a visiting one, of course.

I attended Mass on Monday evening at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart at the College General Major Seminary. After Mass, Bro. Aloysius kindly informed us that His Eminence Jean-Baptiste Cardinal Pham Minh Man, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh (formerly known as Saigon), Viêt Nam, will be celebrating Mass the following day at 11.45AM.

His Eminence Cardinal Pham was on a pastoral trip to visit the Vietnamese Catholic diaspora.

About 8 million people in Vietnam are Catholic, the 2nd largest Catholic population by in Asia after the Philippines. Its vibrant Catholic Church has an overabundance of vocations, limited only by the Communist government restriction on Seminary recruitment. The only Major Seminary is only allowed an intake once every 2 years. The numbers are also restricted. When the restriction was lifted this year, there were 70 applicants and even the store room had to be used as quarters for the students. Another seminary is now being built to cater for the great number of vocations.

If you remember, recently His Eminence Crecenzio Cardinal Sepe, at that time Prefect of Propagande Fide visited Vietnam and ordained one of the largest classes of priests in recent memory outside the Cathedral in Hanoi where 57 men were ordained.

So far, His Eminence has been to Canada, Australia and several other countries where there exists high concentrations of Vietnamese migrant workers.

After making a stop in Kuala Lumpur, His Eminence visited the College General which once served Vietnam as well. Another reason for the trip was that the College was the seminary where some of the canonized Vietnamese Martyrs studied for the priesthood including Sts. Phillip Minh, Peter Qui, Paul Loc and companions.

Their relics are reserved and venerated in the College Chapel.

When I arrived, His Eminence and his accompanying entourage were with the Fr. Rector viewing a film on the origins of the College General and its journey from Ayuthaya to its present location. Since the College Museum was open, I took the opportunity to peer inside.

Here’s a very beautiful depiction of a Guardian Angel. The statue above is of St. Joseph.

I was very surprised to find out that the Museum had a replica of the Guttenberg Bible, the first book even printed and by many accounts, the most beautiful. Printing is one of the few arts that reached its zenith at its inception. You can see it here open to the Gospel of Luke.

The next picture depicts the manner with which some of the martyrs were executed in Korea. The French MEP martyrs Sts. Laurent Imbert and Jacques Chastan were professors at the College. St. Chastan was also a former priest at my parish. The silk screen below is written in Korean. I can’t remember what it says. Need to check it out.

His Eminence then entered the museum and we were kindly ushered out to give the entourage some privacy. In the Chapel, I took the opportunity to photograph the ornate antique north side altar dedicated to the Vietnamese Martyrs. Perhaps when the rumoured motu proprio is released, the Tridentine Mass can once again be celebrated on this altar.

Here’s a full view of the altar. Note the antique reliquaries. There’s hundred’s of authentic relics here from many famous and obscure saints whose closeness to God in life have hallowed their bodies. There’s more on the other south side altar.

The Mass soon started with the His Eminence Cardinal Pham as the main celebrant. His Lordship the Rt. Rev. Antony Selvanayagam, the Bishop of Penang, His Grace the Most Rev. Anthony Soter Fernandez, the Archbishop Emeritus of Kuala Lumpur, the Rev. Fr. Edwin Paul, Rector and another Vietnamese priest who accompanied the Cardinal concelebrated the Mass.

Sorry for the blurry pictures as I did not want to use the flash during Mass. The Mass of the Day was the Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is traditionally also the day of prayer for those in the cloistered life. In his homily, His Eminence touched on the animating power of the Holy Spirit and His transformative gifts. Touching on his personal experiences, His Eminence said that as he traveled the world visiting the Vietnamese Catholic diaspora, he thanked the local hierarchy and Church for providing pastoral care to the migrants. But it was the local Church in turn who thanked the Vietnamese for their Faith and life witness. The zeal and fidelity of these Vietnamese migrants for the Faith of their Fathers and martyrs often reanimated the parishes where they worship and their children provide a disproportionate number of vocations relative to their population.

His Eminence attributed this to the power of the same Holy Spirit that filled the Virgin Mary and inspired her to a life of fidelity to God which now inspired them and transformed them. They came as migrants and became valued members of the parish community and the local Church.

His Grace, Archbishop Soter can be seen here assisting the Cardinal during the Offertory. One funny moment occurred when His Eminence, perhaps used to having his Deacon present during his Masses suddenly stopped during the Rite of Peace. After a moment of silence, His Grace Archbishop Soter, realizing the situation, quickly said “Let us give each other the sign of peace”.

Here, Archbishop Soter and Bishop Anthony can be seen concelebrating with His Eminence.
Group pictures after the Mass. The Seminarians were joined in the picture by those in attendance.

I was taking the photos while the photographers were taking turns getting their picture taken. Father Rector can be seen here motioning to get my turn at it.

Bishops only please =)

Here, Bro Aloysius and His Eminence can be seen at the Altar of the Vietnamese Martyrs.

His Eminence with a part of the Vietnamese entourage accompanying him.

Bro. Peter Anthoney kindly requested His Eminence to graciously consent to have his picture taken with your humble scribe who can be seen at on the left of the picture. Mark and Angela, who came despite an ongoing STPM exam, are on the right.

Now, for those of you living in Rome, where the Princes of the Church are as common a sight as trees might not understand the rarity of this event. We have no Cardinals in Malaysia. The closest are in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. The last Cardinal to visit if my memory serves is Cardinal Seper to open the new seminary buildings about 15 years ago. Personally, I have never met one. This was quite something =)

Now that I’ve seen a Prince of the Church, the Pope is next on my list. After that, who knows, perhaps the Lord and His Mother? In a vision I mean, not face-to-face just yet. =)

Here’s a picture of the memorial to the Vietnamese martyrs in the College grounds. The Chapel can be seen on the hill in the background. His Eminence laid some flowers here at the start of his visit.

A close-up.
St. Phillip Minh and companions.
Ora pro nobis.

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