ASIA NEWS REPORT: The faithful remember a man of few words who worked hard and well. Originally from the north, he left when the Communists took over. Involved in social and educational activities, he was forced out of teaching with the fall of Saigon. A university professor says the government should take advantage of the work of Catholic priests.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese Catholics are mourning the passing of Fr Luke Trần Khánh Tích, a priest “who said little, but did a lot”, especially in the field of education. The clergyman passed away on 18 June at the age of 78. In view of his example, the faithful want the Church to step up its commitment to education, in accordance with the principles of Christian ethics, as well as stand firm on unity with the Vatican and the pope.
Fr Luke was born on 13 October 1932 at Tôn Đạo Parish, Phát Diệm Diocese, north Vietnam. He and his family fled to the south in 1954 when Ho Chi Minh took power in the north and established a Communist regime.
Never one to take the limelight, he worked in education until 1975 when the pro-American government of South Vietnam fell and North Vietnamese troops entered Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), an event that was followed by the expulsion of missionaries and years of hardship for the country’s Catholics.
“Father Luke did a lot for the Church. He did it well and in silence,” Prof Hung, of Ho Chi Minh City University, told AsiaNews. “It’s regrettable that the government is unwilling to take advantage of the skills and talent of Catholic priests,” he added.
Catholics in fact have done a lot in the field of education. However, many facilities and schools built by the Church are now lying in ruin.
A public school teacher Hảo knows that all too well. The late priest was much loved by “the more than 5,000 members of the Binh An ha parish.” He will be sorely “missed because he worked hard and well,” even though he “was a man of few words.”
With the fall of Saigon in 1975, “the revolutionary government took over the educational system,” Fr Joseph T. explained. Fr Luke was thus out of a job. Nonetheless, he was able to engage in a “personal revolution” and act as the community’s guide “to serve the Church and the people of God, through his pastoral work and manual labour in the parish.”
Fr Luke Trần Khánh Tích is one of the many examples of churchmen, who through the centuries, embodied the dedication of the Catholic Church to the social field and worked to help the people of Vietnam, a heritage that was brought abruptly to an end in 1975 with the closure or seizure of hospitals, schools and charitable agencies.
As card Jean Baptiste Phạm Minh Mẫn put it, now it is time for the Vietnamese Church to renew its initiatives, be more mature and stronger than the divisions that come from outside, so that it can face, peacefully, all the challenges of modernity in communion with the Vatican and the pope.