by Phan Phát Huồn, CSsR
History of the Catholic Church in Việt Nam, Tome I
Long Beach, California: Cứu Thế Tùng Thư, 2000.
Chapter Seventeen. Prohibitions against
Catholicism in Đàng Trong under the Reign of Minh Mạng
of Nationwide Prohibition against Catholicism
Not only were members of the clergy
foreign missionaries courageous
enough to die for their faith, but lay Catholic followers had such
3. Tống Viết Bường,
One of the faithful who died a martyr was Tống Viết Bường,
platoon chief. He was born at Phủ Cam (16), Huế.
father was Nicolas Tống
Giang, and his mother was Maria Lượng. As a platoon chief of
garrison from Gia Long's reign, he concealed his identiy until
1831 when it was disclosed that he was a Catholic. That year, the
montagnards at Đá Vách
Quảng Nam rebelled against the local authorities, and
Bường was assigned to pacify the rebellion. The rebellion
Bường and his platoon returned home. Taking advantage of this
rival of his disclosed his identity, and this piece of news
Mạng's ear. The king summoned him and asked:
"When you have done with your
fighting, did you pay a visit to Non
Nước Pagoda on your way home?"
He calmly answered: "Your Majesty, because
Your Majesty did not instruct me to do so, I did not go there.
Moreover, there was no
rebellion at Non Nuoc Pagoda, why did I have to go there?"
said: "As a rule, after gaining victory from a battle, the commander
usually takes his company to
for prayers. Why
didn't you do that?"
Without hesitation, he replied: "Because
am a Christian."
The reply confirmed the king's awareness that there were many
around him in his court.
end of 1832, Minh Mạng ordered an inventory of all Christians in
armed forces. Of course, Bường's name was included. Soon
and 12 colleagues were imprisoned. (17)
In 1832, the commander of the garrison of the capital ordered the
Catholic officers and soldiers to sign a Catholicism-denial
soldiers and one officer refused to sign the paper.
an officer, Bường had to wear
neck and limb shackles like his
enlisted men. All of them were tortured so mercilessly that their
scattered. Unable to stand terrible
six men had to give up and signed
the pledge. Bường and other six were stơd firm in their faith.
anger at the resoluteness of the soldiers, Minh Mạng ordered them
every other day, so that the wounds were unable to heal. He
would shake their minds. But he was wrong; they were determined to
Knowing that he would be executed, Bường calmly said goodbye
fellow-prisoners. The soldiers who had been under his command took
execution site. It was about five o'clock in the evening; the
him to move more quickly. He told them:
"My comrades, why do we
have to hurry. I know my way. We are not
going to miss it. "
It was nearly dark when the prisoner arrived at the site. In the
flickering light of torches, Captain Bường looked for the last
familiar houses near the church at Thợ Đúc, among which was
daughter's [Tống Thị Quờn*]. The
mandarin in charge of the execution talked to Bường:
You are not a robber. You are not a rebel. Why do you have to
ill-treatments only because you are a Christian? Deny your
His Majesty will forgive you and reinstate your rank.
- No, I am approaching my goal now. Never
will I retreat, Bường
that, he asked for some minutes to pray. In such a completely
heart-breaking moment, Bường silently looked at the ground and
to grant him more energy and courage to endure to the last
finished his prayers, the executing soldier standing behind him
sword and struck hard at Bường neck from behind. This occurred
1833. His head was displayed in public for three days. He was
Phủ Cam. Tống
Viết Bường was canonized as a martyr saint by Pope John Paul II
(16) His exact
birthdate has not been known, but probably it was in between 1773
(17) Buong was a captain, and
was nicknamed Đội Bường 'platoon
chief'. Actually, the term đội in the Vietnamese military
equivalent to an army captain not a sergeant. See Vũ Công, Máu
Nông Thôn đất Việt. (The martyrs’ blood on the
Vietnamese countryside, 2nd
ed., p. 8. For more information, see:
- Roux, Vestiges Profanes et Religieux du Vieux Huế, p.45, Huế,
- Bui Duc Sinh, Giáo Hội Công Giáo ở Việt
Nam 'The Catholic Church in Viet Nam (mimeographed copy)
46-47, Sai Gon. 1974
(18) But Duc Sinh, op. cit., p. 49. Realizing that nothing could shake Bường's
Secretary of Ministry of Justice suggested that he be tried, but
the minister: "Not necessary to try him. Keep battering him
agrees to trample over the Cross. Otherwise, beat him to death
body out of the citadel.”
(19) But Duc Sinh,
op. cit., p. 46-47.