Fatima Centers Open around Country

HANOI, MAY 16 ( Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima is widespread among Vietnamese Catholics who know by heart the story of the apparitions to the three shepherd children in Portugal. The movement to promote devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Blue Army, today called the Fatima Apostleship, are very active, although the operate under cover.

The government is suspicious of devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. In 1975 it was seen to be anti-Communist and anti-revolution because during war years Vietnamese Catholics still followed the old Catholic tradition of
praying for the "conversion of Russia". Moreover the Blue Army is of American origin and this gave rise to concern: the Party sees it as a U.S. move to counter the "Red army". This explains strict surveillance
of all Marian devotion and practices. Only in the last few years has the government allowed services in honour of Our Lady. Fides was told by people in Vietnam that the local Catholics are overjoyed about the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco. Many are praying a novenas of thanksgiving and accompanied the Pope's visit to Fatima with prayers.

In Saigon diocese, the Fatima Centre at Binh Trieu is a ways full of devotees. "On Saturdays we have about 300 visitors", an eyewitness told Fides. "There are more on the first Saturday of the month and on the 13th of the month. From May to October on the 13th of every month we commemorate the apparitions, and people come from Nha Trang, Phan Thiet, Phu Cuong and My Tho. More than 20 thousand, including non Christians, attend the solemn midday Mass, many to thank Our Lady for corporal and spiritual graces received, others to implore new favours," the Fides source continues.

There is another Center of Our Lady of Fatima at Vinh Long. Devotion to Our Lady of Fatima exists in many parishes and there are special Masses on May 13 and October 13 for those unable to travel to Binh Trieu.

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