I don’t know how much coverage it got back in North America, but the news media of Việt Nam covered it very well. This from the Việt Nam News Agency:
Vatican Cardinal Sepe flies to central Viet Nam
12/01/2005 -- 21:31(GMT+7
Thua Thien-Hue (VNA) - Vatican’s Missionary Minister Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe visited Hue city and Quang Tri province in central Viet Nam from Nov. 30-Dec.1.
This is the second leg of the Vatican Cardinal’s Viet Nam mission, after Ha Noi, where he chaired an ordination ceremony for 57 priests from eight dioceses from northern provinces.
In the former imperial Hue city on Nov. 30, he met Deputy Chairman of the Thua Thien-Hue People’s Committee Ngo Hoa, who affirmed the local policy of encouraging freedom of worship, including among Catholics.
Over the past years, Catholics have actively responded to the movement for a new cultural lifestyle so that they can live the gospel amidst the nation. They have also engaged in charitable activities for the poor and victims of natural disasters and joined with compatriots in making their communities prosperous, said Hoa.
For his part, Cardinal Sepe expressed his happiness in visiting Hue, famous for its rich cultural heritages and great tourist potential. He said the Vatican was willing to help build educational establishments for the entire local community.
Later in the day, the Vatican Minister called on Phu Cam church, where he was welcomed by Hue Arbishop Nguyen Nhu The. Cardinal Sepe also visited the local seminary, which trains priests for Hue city, the central city of Da Nang and the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum.
On the morning of Dec. 1, he visited Quang Tri province where he chaired a mass at the La Vang church in Hai Lang district. In the afternoon, the Vatican Cardinal met with regional bishops, priests and deacons in Hue.
We went to see Cardinal Sepe celebrate the Eucharist at Phú Cam Cathedral. It was a very “high” mass. For those of you who are not Roman Catholic, or do not attend a liturgical church, that means there is a lot of ceremony. The title of this posting says it all – smells (meaning lots of incense) and bells (little tinkling bells and the clap of the huge bells in the towers.)
And, the Vietnamese know how to do ceremony right. It was a feast for the senses and the spirit. My Italian is non-existent, and my Vietnamese too poor to understand the homily, but I understood the rest of the service just fine. We were seated next to a Christian Brothers monk who spoke excellent English.
Passages of scripture were read by lay people from the congregation. The gentleman reading the Old Testament was dressed in a traditional men’s ao dai, which is always blue, black, or in the case of truly elderly and distinguished men, red. The lady did not read the Psalm – she sang it, with a voice that was even more beautiful than she.
Three scenes stay in my mind’s eye.
An elderly gentleman, dressed in his finest ao dai, was wheeled down the aisle at the head of the processional. He was a man held in obvious high esteem. When the Eucharist was celebrated, the Cardinal himself gave the man the host (consecrated bread) – and made the sign of the cross on his head. The monk next to us said with tears in his eyes “He is my father.”
Part of the ceremony is bringing the bread and wine to the altar for consecration. It is usually brought to the altar by members of the congregation. On this occasion, it was presented by young people. The girls in yellow ao dai carried incense burners. To the left you can see the carafe of wine, while on the right the young boy in his blue ao dai is awed to be in the presence of a real Cardinal. He flanks a woman presenting the host to Cardinal Sepe. Flowers were brought in the same manner as the bread and wine, and they were to decorate the altar.
After the Eucharist itself, but before the service was over, Cardinal Sepe lit candles – and from those candles, the fire spread to candles held by the members of the congregation. He charged them to spread the light to all of Việt Nam.
The Light of the World.
Be sure to click on the pictures – especially the bottom one – so you can see them full size.