From 1798 to 1861, Vietnam witnessed severe persecution of Christians, resulting in the martyrdom of many faithful. This period of religious strife saw two significant waves of executions, with the first group of 64 martyrs between 1798 and 1853, beatified in 1900, and the second group from 1859 to 1861, beatified in 1909.

Christianity’s roots in Vietnam trace back to 1533 when a Portuguese missionary arrived. However, severe restrictions on the faith led to a clandestine spread, primarily led by Jesuits, including Father Alexander de Rhodes who baptized over 6,000 Vietnamese before his expulsion in 1630.

The late 18th and early 19th centuries were marked by intense political turmoil and civil wars, during which a large number of Christians were executed for their faith. In 1833, a brutal edict demanding Christians renounce their faith sparked a half-century-long persecution. Notably, from 1857 to 1862, the violence escalated, leading to the martyrdom of over 5,000 Vietnamese Christians, including 115 priests and 100 nuns. Churches, schools, and convents were destroyed, and tens of thousands were exiled.

This dark chapter in Vietnamese history, often referred to as the “Great Massacre,” concluded with the Peace of 1862, following France’s military intervention. The estimated death toll included thousands of laymen, clergy, catechists, and nuns across various regions of Vietnam.

The sacrifice of these martyrs was recognized by Pope John Paul II, who canonized 117 Martyrs of Vietnam on June 19, 1988.

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