|Christ the King: The True 'Celestial Emperor' of Vietnam|
| It has been a committment of mine that every website I design must have at least one page devoted to Christ the King. I have often wondered how popular this devotion is in Vietnam as I have never really been able to tell (it is often impossible to get plain answers from anyone) but, although the devotion to Our Lady of Lavang is fairly tolerated, I cannot believe the current government would really welcome a spread of devotion to Christ the King. Our Lady of Lavang, who appeared holding the Divine Child, has been named "Empress of Vietnam", in keeping with the style of Vietnamese traditions, and if I had to choose a Vietnamese title for Christ the King, the best I could come up with would be Thien-Hoang or "Celestial Emperor".
Naturally, I would like to see this devotion spread in all nations of the world, but it is particularly necessary in Communist nations, like Vietnam, where the government attempts to restrain, restrict and build legal "fortified towers" all around religion. The social kingship of Christ is all about making Christ the King the center of society, which is something the Catholics of Vietnam have long been aware of, although they perhaps havn't always acted in the best way to carry this out. The first heir to the throne, Crown Prince Canh, was converted to Catholicism, but never lived to succeed his father. Upon the accession of Emperor Tu Duc, many Catholics supported the rebellion in favor of his elder brother Crown Prince Hong Bao, who was seen as more tolerant of Christianity (and compared to Tu Duc he would almost have to have been) but this effort too failed. Finally, I think, knowingly or not, and again not always done in the best way, that the administration of President Ngo Dinh Diem saw a real effort to institute the reign of Christ the King over South Vietnamese society, particularly thanks to the Catholic program of public morality carried out by Madame Nhu.
It seems clear to me that Christ the King has gone to extra effort to extend his reign over Vietnam, certainly He has met us more than halfway. The first heir to the throne was a Catholic, the last Emperor married a Catholic, his children were raised in the Church and he himself ultimately converted to Catholicism as well. The Diem administration was another opportunity, but in every case some mortal failing kept this goal of establishing the social kingship of Christ in Vietnam from succeeding. Certainly, there have been more than enough martyrs to grow the Church in Vietnam, during the latter half of the Tay Son reign, the early Nguyen dynasty reign and again under the policies of the Communist Party. These heroic figures, such as St Andrew Dung-Lac, were recently canonized by Pope John Paul II. The complete list can be seen on the website of the Holy See at this page.
Devotion to Christ the King is something I think traditional Vietnamese people could really understand and get behind. The concept of a supreme, divine ruler whose moral authority stretches across all boundaries is very familiar to this culture. If presented in the right way (and I'm a Jesuit sympathizer in this area) I think the devotion could become quite popular. As for myself, I would really like an icon of Christ portrayed in the style of a traditional Vietnamese Emperor, rather along the lines of Our Lady of Lavang. I have tried to do some myself, but none were acceptable. I have some very good icons of this sort in Chinese style, but none in Vietnamese style. Today, however, as long as the Communist government continues its current policies, there is little any of us can do other than to continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in Vietnam, to pray that the reign of Christ the King will be extended and accepted over the whole of Vietnam. The country needs this, and the people need this. Like so many others in Asia, agnosticism is growing in Vietnam and some new movement is needed to reverse this horrible trend. Of course, I think the best solution is an appeal for devotion to Christ the King, Duc Chua Giexu, Thien Hoang nuoc Viet Nam.