Vigil for Vietnam's 'weeping' virgin

A "weeping" Virgin Mary statue has drawn crowds of devotees to Ho Chi Minh City's Catholic cathedral since Saturday, with government officials doing nothing so far to disrupt the vigil.

The Australian reports today that more than 1000 people gathered around the Virgin Mary in the square outside Notre Dame Cathedral on the weekend and even yesterday more than 100 Catholics, mainly women, maintained their vigil.

According to local word of mouth, a boy selling lottery tickets saw a tear streak the face of the 3 metre statue on Saturday afternoon. A crowd quickly gathered and by Sunday traffic was disrupted and hawkers were doing a roaring trade in photographs of the weeping Virgin.

"There was still a fair crowd there (on Monday) night, 300 to 400 people but the police have made no effort so far to discourage them," a foreign scholar holidaying in Ho Chi Minh City told The Australian yesterday.

"But they have started to enforce a ban on the sale of photographs - the hawkers had been making a killing selling pictures of the statue," said the man, who asked not to be named.

Speaking for the city diocese at Sunday mass at Notre Dame, Fr Huynh Cong Minh suggested the tears were rain streaks on the dusty statue and warned that "bad elements" were trying to exploit religious fervour.

Local Catholic leaders regard the weeping Virgin with scepticism but are watching how the episode plays out for indications of how the prickly church-state relationship is evolving.

Vigil for Vietnam's 'weeping' Virgin (The Australian 3/11/05)

3 Nov 2005