World Notes & Quotes

Cautious Opening to Church in Vietnam

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Aug. 15-Correspondent Paul Alexander offers an important reason why the Vietnamese authorities allowed more than 200,000 Catholics to gather in the village of La Vang to celebrate the bicentennial of a Marian apparition there.

While there is “a history of strained relations with organized religion and Vietnam has been accused of jailing and harassing religious leaders,” said Alexander, “the government has been courting allies in a war against rising drug abuse, prostitution and corruption.

“There are social evils everywhere,” said the leader of the nation's 8 million Catholics, Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung. “The cause is the shortage of praying. The Virgin Mary will help those who pray.”

The La Vang festival marked the Virgin Mary's appearance in the village in 1798, a time when Catholics were being persecuted by the then Vietnamese emperor, Reuters reported. “Taking refuge in [a] forest, the Catholics were visited by an apparition of Mary holding a child in her arms,” said the news service. Both AP and Reuters said it was the only apparition ever reported in Southeast Asia.

Orthodox Symbols, Evangelical Message

RELIGION TODAY, Aug. 16- “Eastern Orthodox liturgy and contemporary worship are attracting people to a church in a Moscow suburb,” reported the evangelical Internet news service about a strategy to attract new members that is similar to some evangelical efforts in Latin America.

“The ministry uses modern music to reach young people, as well as traditional liturgical symbols such as an Orthodox cross and candles,” reported Religion Today in a story on Pastor Igor Salavyov, leader of an the evangelical church in Istra.

The effort to make converts of Russians of Orthodox background is reminiscent of evangelical groups in Latin America that feature images of the Blessed Mother, especially Our Lady of Guadalupe, in order to win converts who are comfortable with Catholic symbolism.

The Russian church featured by Religion Today also offers free concerts that attract up to “200 people who receive free tapes of the concert in return for their names and addresses.”