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Funeral Mass of the Bishop Paul Maria Cao Dinh Thuyen

September 2, 2022 7:45 pm
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(CGOL) At 13:00, Monday, August 29, 2022, each sad bell rang from the tower of Xa Doai Cathedral to announce that the old Bishop Paul Maria Cao Dinh Thuyen had been called by God. The great tree – a witness to the history of the Church of Vietnam, the diocese of Vinh and the diocese of Ha Tinh has fallen, the pastor – the venerable old father of more than 530,000 Nghe – Tinh – Binh believers has returned, ending the journey of 95 years of earthly life, 62 years of priestly ministry and 30 years of bishop’s ministry. The land of Vinh – Ha Tinh is vast and full of mourning-colored silence. The scent of frankincense, the smell of separation and nostalgia permeated the space with indescribable grief.

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The path imprinted with the history of the venerable and lovely father

These days of great mourning can be said to be the Thanksgiving day of the two Dioceses of Vinh – Ha Tinh. Thank you for the beautiful life of Bishop Paul Maria and now he is resting in God’s love with everyone’s affection.

95 years as a human being, 62 years of priestly grace and 30 years in the ordination of bishops have ended, of which more than 10 years as pastor of Vinh diocese (from 2000-2010, when Ha Tinh diocese had not been divided yet). Static are the milestones for each “son” of the two dioceses to review the main features in the life of  Bishop Paul Maria, the paternal steps that have been imprinted on the history of the Diocese. Let’s look back at the years when he wholeheartedly devoted himself to serving the Nghe – Tinh – Binh flock, giving thanks for God’s love and showing his filial piety and gratitude to him.

During the 95-year journey of earthly life, 62 years as a priest, and 30 years as a bishop, Bishop Paul Maria has experienced countless ups and downs in order to be faithful and devoted in the way of following God. He was born, raised and educated in the old regime; growing up, accepting and performing the Divine Office in a time full of hardships and sufferings of war, hatred, bomb and destruction, suspicion, persecution, hardship and imprisonment. Diocese leadership in the period when the country has changed but is facing the faith challenges of the new era. Taking a break to be able to look back on the results of their tireless dedications but still constantly pouring out the fountain of God’s grace to everyone through continuous pastoral activities. In those 95 years, so many favors and ideals have become flesh and blood, into souls, so that as a way of serving life, “the flame of Paul Maria Cao Dinh Thuyen” always burns with all its heart in the pastoral duties of the Church with tireless enthusiasm. The pastor fervently serves in humility and devotion, without big blows but quietly and persistently; is a person who lives and operates through time with historical ups and downs; he is both a victim, a witness, a teacher, a winner, and a wise and creative pave. The old father was always considerate, tactful and cheerful with sincere and generous love, always ready to commit himself to protect the flock from injustice. With the passage of time, these personal imprints have merged into the common line, creating the values ​​of the era that remain forever in the hearts of the two Dioceses of Vinh and Ha Tinh.

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Bishop Paul Maria was known as the “Bishop on every kilometer” when he went up and down the Nghe – Tinh – Binh road to visit and serve the flock. Not only present on every kilometer of geographical space, he  is also present on every kilometer of the pastoral ladder in the Diocese. He has in turn been in charge of the role of vicar, parish priest to parish priest. Managing the Episcopal See, from vicar to vicar general, from coadjutor to bishop. That is the image of a shepherd who is always on the path of the mission. Although that mission journey is sometimes flat and peaceful, it is not without many thorns and difficulties of the times. The journey of Bishop Paul Maria can be said to be twin brothers with a complicated historical period because of ideological discrimination, painful because of war and bombs. However, he did not avoid, pray for peace, he was present every kilometer of the pit. An extremely arduous, arduous, difficult journey that goes hand in hand with the ups and downs of the times, but also full of delicious fruits, imprinted with God’s grace. Over the years, he has become a great tree, radiating virtue for generations of flocks.

Bishop Paul Maria always described his life according to the episcopal motto he chose: “To be crucified with Christ” to draw the source of grace for the pastoral ministry of souls , for the work of evangelization in the land of Nghe – Tinh – Binh, to bring the fire of love to all parishioners throughout the poor villages, deserted hamlets and alleys of this sunny and stormy land. In just 10 years as pastor of the Diocese (from 2000 to 2010), he laid hands on 104 candidates for the ministry of deacon and priest; 30 new parishes were established; restored and merged into Vinh Diocese with 6 parishes south of the Gianh River (before 2005 belonging to the Archdiocese of Hue), at the same time many parishes were rebuilt and established. He has established many Catholic departments, groups and associations for the Diocese. Although living and serving the Diocese in historical circumstances has many difficulties, but with great efforts, hard sacrifices and a spirit of perseverance, the late Bishop Paul Maria planted in priests, Monks and parishioners of Vinh – Ha Tinh diocese joyfully serve the Gospel, love the Church and people.

Until the last moments of his earthly life, he still has strong health, lucidity and dedicated service spirit does not seem to show any signs of decline. He ministered until the last moments of his life. His 12 years of retirement are not limited to peaceful convalescence, but he continues to roam “every kilometer” along the Nghe – Tinh – Binh road to come to the flock, devoting the remaining energy in old age to nourish the children through the table of the Word and the Eucharist. The lovely old father visited all parishes and almost all parishes of both Vinh and Ha Tinh Dioceses. No mathematical number can count the distance he has traveled. Only love and sacrifice for unity and service will last forever as he uttered at the Mass of the Diocese patrons on August 15, 2009: “… Vinh Diocese has not only one Cao Dinh Thuyen but there are more than 500,000 Cao Dinh Thuyen”.

95 earthly years with many ups and downs, floating, but the life of the late Bishop Paul Maria is woven by “happiness” and “thanksgiving” as he himself shared at the celebration of his 90th birthday. my age at Xa Doai Cathedral: “Oh! How happy for me. Because the day I was born I was naked, I was nothing! But then each grace of God silently drips down on me, day after day, month after month, year after year, thousands of thousands of those graces have been grafted into my life… What is the joy of my birth, what is it? what’s to remember, what’s to be happy about, when I’ve received so many graces from God, so many blessings from the Church, so many things from society, and then in the end I can’t do anything significant for God, for the Church and for life. Oh! I am indebted to God, I am indebted to the Church, I am indebted to everyone, even though that debt is not asked of me. Lord, you have done so many things for me. But please give me one more thing, that I can always recognize God’s favors without ceasing to give thanks and gratitude, so that my birthday anniversaries will be a joyful, joyful, and memorable day.”

Along the process is the image of a father with very respectable personalities, a mark of a faithful and devoted pastor to his ideals. In the diligence of sacrifice and service at the great age of 95, he went to his Father’s house, in the heart of Vinh’s mother, leaving infinite grief for the flock.

“I fought in a beautiful competition, ran all the way, kept the faith. Now I can only wait for a wreath for the righteous” (2 Tim 4:7-8).

With gratitude and love for the father who spent all his years on earth for the mission of serving the People of God, in the days of great mourning, more than 500 official delegations and tens of thousands of children from all over the world have returned to pay respects and pray for Bishop Paul Maria. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle – Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Archbishop Marek Zalewski – Non-resident Representative of the Holy Father to Vietnam, the Vietnam Bishops’ Conference sent an email condolences to the family of the Diocese of Vinh and Ha Tinh. All social networking sites are covered with memory and gratitude to him. It is a living testament to his gratitude and appreciation for his tireless service offerings over the 62 years of his priestly ministry and 30 years as a bishop.

In particular, the Funeral Mass of  Bishop Paul Maria at 8:30 a.m., on the morning of September 1, 2022 has truly become the rendezvous point of filial piety and unity of all members of God’s people in the Catholic family department. Whether attending directly at Xa Doai Cathedral or indirectly through the media, all the children of  Vinh – Ha Tinh Diocese look forward to their dear  father on the day of his body handing over to mother earth.

The funeral Mass was presided over by Bishop Alphonsus, Bishop of Vinh Diocese, in the presence of a large number of Bishops, Monsignors, Fathers of Vinh Diocese, Ha Tinh Diocese and many priests outside the Diocese.

Right before the Mass, Bishop Alphonsus, Pastor of Vinh Diocese, placed the pastor’s staff and Mitra hat on the coffin of Bishop Paul Maria, a symbolic gesture, though simple and brief, but showing respect, compassion and understanding filial piety and boundless gratitude of the entire Vinh and Ha Tinh Diocese for him. Then, Father Gerado Nguyen Nam Viet, chancellor of the archbishopric, read out the biography of the late Bishop Paul Maria and the condolence emails.

In the opening remarks, Bishop Alphonsus portrayed some features of the life and mission of  Bishop Paul Maria. At the same time, he invited the community to join hands to give thanks to God and pray for him to soon enjoy Heaven. He said: “As everyone knows, at 13:00 on Monday, August 29, when the Bishop Paul Maria gently breathed his last breath, the sad news spread very quickly, someone reported it to him. Titled like this “the fairy has gone to heaven”. Yes, “the fairy” has white skin all over his body, and his hair is also gray in the course of 95 years – almost a century, he wrote again. Wearing a white robe, “the fairy” is loved and respected by everyone near and far, lay down forever, his eyes closed, his heart full of love also stopped beating. Today and now is his funeral Mass, also his last Mass on earth after more than 62 years as a priest and 30 years as a bishop. In his ministry of priests and bishops, through his consecrated anointed hands, in his small lightness and grace, how many graces of God were communicated to the flock of the two Churches: Vinh – Ha Tinh. And also how many favors of the flock were he reverently offered to the Lord… The forefather Paul Maria was still fondly described as “a bishop in every kilometer” during his lifetime. He traveled across the old Vinh Diocese from Nghe An to Ha Tinh to Quang Binh, from the coastal plain to the rolling hills, without any problems, if one imagines each trip as a thread alone, all the travels of  his many years of priests and bishops have woven a thick carpet of interlacing. Those journeys must have been hundreds, thousands, and perhaps millions of kilometers long, woven the path that brought him to the kingdom of heaven today. Please invite the community to join in this Mass to fervently pray and send him to God and to be rewarded. The vestibule I am wearing, the pastoral staff  I hold, and the chalice that I myself will offer later with the community are yours. It all means to say that he is still alive, today, now and here with us to offer God the final Mass. With all affection and respect for him, I invite everyone to join in the celebration of Mass.

Presenting the Word of God during the Mass, Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien emphasized that death is not the end but the gateway to the journey to the heavenly Father’s house, from which he shared with the tragic loss of family of Vinh Diocese. Inspired by the slogan of Bishop Paul Maria: “To be crucified with Christ”, Archbishop Joseph has portrayed some features of the life and mission of him. From there, the image of a fervent pastor  who sacrifices himself  to serve until the end of his life, is a lifelong commitment to be crucified with Christ.

At the end of the Mass was a rite of surrender and farewell presided over by Auxiliary Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Vien.

After that, Fr. Vicar General Peter Nguyen Van Vinh, on behalf of the Diocese family, had farewells, feelings of affection, gratitude for the great contributions and sacrifices of the late Bishop Paul Maria. . He said: “…You passed away the same way you lived. That’s why we don’t stand here to mourn, but to give thanks to God. May we have the honor to join you in praising God for all the wonderful things that God has done in you, and through you, has poured out countless blessings for the Diocese… Unparalleled motivation for our descendants to know how to live faithfully, courageously, modestly and creatively… You passed away peacefully, without disturbing the Diocese, without being entangled with the descendants of the spiritual sect , your life is a life of giving, serving others, not letting others serve you… Respecting the dearest Reverend Father, even if the whole Diocese loved and attached to you, we would not was able to keep you because you had left at God’s call. In a little while, your body will enter in the mother earth, but your image, spirit, pastoral way and way of presence will forever enter people’s hearts. The good memories’ your will be kept forever in the diocesan family. With the eyes of the flesh we bid you farewell, with the eyes of faith, with respect and pity we promise to meet again.”

Next, Bishop Alphonsus, Pastor of the Diocese, on behalf of the Funeral Committee, thanked the Bishops, the Fathers, the authorities, the benefactors and the entire community.

Finally, there is the rite of passing the coffin, blessing the grave, lowering the grave and burying the coffin of the late Bishop Paul Maria at the Bishop’s Cemetery.

 Bishop Paul Maria passed away, but he became immortal in the hearts of every Nghe – Tinh – Binh believer. The faithful pastor, quietly walking along the 95-year earthly journey with all the noble reasons of life has become the flesh and blood, the soul of these two dear dioceses of Vinh and Ha Tinh. Please offer incense in memory of  Bishop Paul Maria with the confidence that his soul will be rewarded in the Kingdom of  Heaven. With respect and reverence, we pay homage to our dear and venerable father, the last great tree, our fervent and kind shepherd!

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Sr.Giacinta FSML – ( GPV )

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