ORTHODOX HEART SITES
VIETNAM OF MY HEART
The first Divine Liturgy in Vietnam
From 29 April to 11 May 2002, staff members of the Department for External Church Relations Rev. Vladimir Alexandrov and Mr. V. Radayev visited Vietnam with the blessing of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations. The purpose of the visit was to offer pastoral care to compatriots and to conduct pre-Paschal and Paschal Services.
Last November, Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad made a pastoral visit to Vietnam. After his trip the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church considered it expedient to open a parish in the Vietnamese city of Vungtau. More than one thousand of Russian citizens and their families, most of them working at Vietsovpetro, one of the world largest oil producing plants, reside there. A general meeting of the Vungtau Orthodox residents decided to establish a parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in the city.
The day of May 2, 2002 will go down in the history of Orthodoxy in Vietnam. On the Great Thursday, when the Church commemorates the Last Supper of Christ, the first Divine Liturgy was conducted in this distant country. More than forty people received the Eucharist, most of them purified their souls through the Sacrament of Confession for the first time in their life.
In these days many events took place for the first time there. For the first time, the Gospels of the Passions and the Royal Hours were read, and the Sacrament of Holy Unction was administered. Indeed, the Pascha of Christ shone as ” the Feast of Feasts and the Celebration of Celebrations” in those days – it was the first Pascha to be celebrated in Kohinhina (the ancient name of southern Vietnam).
A miracle happened in the small lecture-hall of the Russian Cultural Center as a triumphant message about the Risen Christ, Who has conquered death, sorrow and lie of this world, resounded there. At midnight, a procession with the cross began its march through silent streets of the residential area. The eternal words “The Angels in heaven, O Christ our Savoir, sing Thy Resurrection…” resounded first timidly and uncertainly, then more and more loudly.
“Christ is risen!” – these words touching everyone’s heart sounded in Vietnam for the first time. The joyous Paschal Matins and then the Liturgy began. More than one hundred faithful united by the presence of the Risen Christ prayed with an exceptional inspiration. Today, about two thousands of Russians are living in Vietnam, and most of them regard themselves as faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church. Our compatriots live not only in Vungtau, but also in Hoshimin (the former Saigon) and Hanoi. Rev. Vladimir Alexandrov celebrated the blessing of water for diplomats and Russian residents in the Vietnamese capital, in the concert-hall of the Russian Embassy in Vietnam.
An office for the dead, the first one for many decades, was conducted at the graves of the Russian seamen in Hoshimin. In 1904, the Russian Diana Cruiser arrived at the harbor of Saigon after a battle with Japanese ships in the Yellow Sea. Eight seamen died of tropical diseases during its forced anchorage lasting over a year. Under the auspices of the Russian Consulate General in Hoshimin, a monument was erected over their grave in 1984.