Breeding Catholicism in Vietnamese Culture

Alain Henry, Aséanie, Sciences humaines en Asie du Sud-Est, décembre 2011, n°28, Éditions du Centre d’anthropologie Sirindhorn, Bangkok.

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The paper proposes an interpretation of a field survey among Vietnamese Catholics which reveals how the message of the Catholic Church and Vietnamese culture have mutually influenced each other.

Amidst intertwined images of Christian fervor and Vietnamese culture, I observe the peculiar place given to ancestor worship. The vigour of this worship, despite two centuries of prohibition by the Church, points to a cultural trait that emphasizes ritual practices, the expression of personal feelings, and moral duty – thus impressing a specific Vietnamese mark upon the Christian message. Religious feeling follows a path that binds together feelings, rituals, and rules. The harmony of that path leads to a secular form of salvation that allows the individual to escape from a perpetual misery human peril.

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