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La Vang – In a time marked by pandemic, poverty, insecurity and uncertainty about the future, the Church in Vietnam is renewing its act of consecration to the Blessed Virgin of La Vang. In spite of all the adversities, many Vietnamese believers did not want to miss the opportunity to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption in the shrine of La Vang. In recent years, thousands of Catholic pilgrims from home and abroad have always made the pilgrimage to the shrine and have taken part in holy masses in a special time of devotion, prayed the rosary, offered dances and flowers to the Virgin who is affectionately called the “Mother of La Vang” by all the Vietnamese faithful. This year the celebration was completely different because of the Covid-19 pandemic: There were no large streams of pilgrims and Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Hue only celebrated one mass at the main altar of the Virgin of La Vang, with only a few concelebrating priests. The cause of these restrictions was the fourth wave of the pandemic that Vietnam is currently facing. Millions of Vietnamese faithful inside and outside the country who worship the mother of La Vang watched the solemn mass via the internet and social media as the celebration was broadcast live thanks to the efforts of the Archdiocese of Hue’s media office.
Archbishop Joseph Linh expressed his regret, but also his hope: “I remember the last mass celebrated on August 15, 2019 by many bishops and thousands of priests from home and abroad with hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese pilgrims who had traveled from many parts of the world and gathered to pray in the extreme heat of summer in central Vietnam”. He continued: “In the past few weeks we have seen many patients suffering from the disease caused by Covid-19, health workers are exhausted and thousands of migrant workers are fleeing the city of Ho Chi Minh, the epicenter of the pandemic wave. Today each of us wonders where Blessed Mary is, begging her to look at the miseries of her children and listen to the voices that cry in Vietnam and around the world. We firmly believe that God blesses those who trust in God and Blessed Mary, even when desperate because of their difficult circumstances. We do not know God’s plan, but we are sure that he loves his children and that he sacrificed his life on the cross to save our lives”. “In the face of the crisis caused by the pandemic, we should all continue to pray, keep our faith in Almighty God and invoke the Virgin Mary”, concluded the Archbishop.
La Vang is the largest pilgrimage center dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Vietnam and Indochina. It is located in Quang Tri Province, about 50 km north of Hue City. It was once a secluded place, covered in dense rainforest, home to many types of wildlife. It is said that in 1798, Blessed Mary appeared in La Vang jungle to help many local believers who had taken refuge there to escape the persecution of the government of the royal center of the city of Hue. While they were suffering, hungry and thirsty, the fugitives gathered under a large banyan tree and confided their sufferings to the Blessed Virgin Mary, reciting the Rosary and praying. Suddenly the Virgin appeared to them and comforted them, pointing them to the leaves of the nearby bush to cure their illnesses. Before saying goodbye, the Virgin said: “From now on the prayer of everyone who comes here to invoke My Name will be heard and he will be blessed”. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Marian feasts and celebrations have been taking place on the initiative of the Catholic religious community, and every year many faithful come to venerate Our Lady of La Vang and thank her, in particular by renewing their request for patronage and protection on the Vietnamese people and on the country, which they now reaffirm in the face of today’s adversity.