Monday, July 25, 2016

Amazing: At its height, the Catholic Church was the largest landholder in Vietnam

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The statue is in Vung Tau and the Communists were initially going to destroy it after 1975, but fortunately did not.  It is magnificent and a must see when visiting the beach.  Spent my honeymoon there as well as visiting many other times.


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Saigon,1964 with the Republic of Vietnam flags flying.

I have lived in Vietnam for over 10 years, but had never heard that the Catholic church was the largest landholder at one time. As Robert Edward Lee said, you will learn something new everyday until the day you die. The land in front of the magnificent church in downtown Saigon (above) was named John F. Kennedy Square until the Communists changed it.  I plan on going back after Thanksgiving where I will travel to Long Xuyen to visit the Catholic church there (below) which seats 1,000  and make good on a promise I made 22 years ago.

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In some northern provinces, more than a quarter of the population was Catholic and the church wielded significant clout. After the communists came to power in 1954, an estimated 750,000 Catholics migrated south, ballooning the population. Under Diem, Catholics held officer positions at double the rate of the rest of the population, according to historian Anthony James Joes; after the migration, as many as one in seven Saigonese were Catholic.

That position of prominence came to a resounding close in April 1975, when the North Vietnamese gained control of South Vietnam. Traditional communism had little place for religion, less so for one associated alternatively with colonialism and anti-Viet Minh sentiments.

 Brutal crackdown
 
The results were brutal and immediate. One Jesuit official recalled to ucanews.com that half of the order's 12 priests were jailed.

"The new regime wasted no time in taking various measures against the Southern Catholic community," writes political scientist Nguyen Van Canh in Vietnam Under Communism: 1975-1982. "The new relationship between church and state in Vietnam requires the Catholic Church to endorse the party line even on ecclesiastical matters."

Arrests and harassment became common, work was scheduled so as to block people from attending Mass, and anti-Catholic raids were carried out on troublesome communities and churches, Nguyen recounts.

4 comments:

  1. indyjonesouthereJuly 25, 2016 at 2:53 PM

    I'll always remember the kids in school uniforms, usually white and maroon, that always had a smile and chirping away like crazy. They were always well cared for and most churches also ran orphanages to take care of kids without parents. The church always seemed a vibrant part of life in SVN and it doesn't surprise me that that is missing in the north.

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    1. Yes and girls in blue skirts/white blouses, then in upper grades, girls in white Ao Dais pedaling by on bicycles. Truly, a sight to behold. The Communists banned Ao Dais for a couple of years, but finally came back to their senses. :)

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  2. Little brother just moved to Saigon from Da Nang. I haven't talked to him since the move, but he had an awesome place in Da Nang, overlooking the water.

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    1. Thanks and I'm sure he will appreciate Saigon. It's strange, but the South Vietnamese are more polite, just as ours are. If you have something small you would like me to deliver to him when I go, I'll be more than happy to do so.

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