The Catholic community in Vietnam held a special Mass honoring two lay martyrs and 134 others who died defending their Christian faith.
According to UCA News, thousands of Xuan Bang parish's Catholic faithful participated in the Mass on Nov. 5, which celebrated the 182nd death anniversaries of John Baptist Tran Ngoc Con and Martin Tran Ngoc Tho.
Before the Mass began, attendees reportedly went around carrying photos of the two martyred priests. They sang hymns, marched within the village, and played instruments. The organizers also prepared cultural presentations that portrayed the life and martyrdom of the two Vietnamese saints.
'Witnesses of Faith'
The news outlet said that aside from the two lay martyrs, the event commemorated 134 individuals who died in Xuan Bang during persecutions against Vietnamese Catholics.
The parish community sees the murdered Catholics as "witnesses of faith."
Parish pastor Fr. Joseph Nguyen Van Hy explained that the local Catholics during the persecutions chose to hold on to their faith even if it meant dying.
The priest said the Catholic witnesses of faith welcomed death in hopes of achieving "eternal life and divine glory in heaven."
'Costs of Catholic Persecution'
The report noted the documented costs of persecution against Vietnamese Catholics. It said that Tran Ngoc Tho and Tran Ngoc Con were among the 117 Vietnamese who became martyrs during the Catholic persecutions from 1745 to 1862.
At least three popes reportedly ordered the canonization of the 117 martyrs of the Catholic faith in Vietnam. They reportedly represent the estimated 130,000 to 300,000 individuals who died during the persecution.
Father Van Hy told reporters that saints Tho and Con were arrested on Nov. 8, 1840, along with three fellow priests and 20 lay people. He said that they were killed on that same day in the province of Nam Dinh. The priest added that the two prelates were beatified and canonized in 1900 and 1988, respectively.
"What we have today is based on their faith and sacrifices and we are the fruits of our native martyrs. We are urged to keep alive their treasure of faith by bearing witness to Christian values in our daily life and transferring it to younger generations," UCA News quoted Father Van Hy saying.
The parish priest also revealed that Xuan Bang parish has 140 martyrs. Father Van Hy added that they have Hanoi archdiocese's highest number of local martyrs, including the two martyred priests and four other fellow prelates.
He highlighted the need for the local community not to set aside their Catholic faith, as it would render the "blood of the martyrs" useless.
Meanwhile, Hanoi Archbp. Joseph Vu Van Thien noted that the two local saints "used their death to affirm that God exists, the Church teaches good things, and Christians love their country."
Archbishop Thien added that everyone could become the Lord's witness regardless of age, work, or societal position.