ACN News, Thursday, 29th May 2008 – VIETNAM
“Because we have so many vocations – and the number of seminarians we can take is limited by the government – people have to wait for a long time before entering seminary”. Archbishop Kiet of Hanoi
By John Newton
VOCATIONS are flourishing in Vietnam despite government restrictions – a leading Bishop told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need this week.
In an interview with ACN, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, described how a growing number of seminarians start their studies this year.
He said: “We have many vocations, this year our seminary received 300 seminarians, in two years time the number will be 400.”
Most senior seminaries are only allowed to accept new students once every two years, due to the communist government’s restrictions on the training and ordination of priests.
Archbishop Kiet added: “Because we have so many vocations – and the number of seminarians we can take is limited by the government – people have to wait for a long time before entering seminary”.
Because Vietnam controls the numbers in seminaries, the Church cannot accept all the applicants they would like for priestly training.
Asked the reason for the high number of vocations, Archbishop Kiet told ACN: “There is a tradition with Vietnamese Catholics – they have a strong sense of vision, in families parents like their children to become priests or to serve God.”
Although Vietnam’s constitution provides for freedom of worship, restrictions still remain, and the Church must obtain special permission before building new seminaries or places of worship.
The government’s 2004 Ordinance on Religion and Belief has meant an easing of restrictions, and in 2006 the authorities gave permission for the expansion of St Joseph Major Seminary in Xuan Loc diocese.
The new building will accommodate students from four dioceses.
In response to a number of urgent and important requests for help, ACN last year offered more than $1.89 million in aid to the country.
The charity’s Asia section’s largest number of grants for the formation of priests and religious went to Vietnam.
Archbishop Kiet also told ACN that religious congregations are growing, and that there are “many conversions, and many catechumens in cities like Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi” with catechesis classes and adult formation held all year round.
The situation of the Church in Vietnam has improved, in part thanks to the efforts of the Vatican to maintain official dialogue with the authorities, despite there having been no formal diplomatic relations with the Holy See since the country was unified under communist rule in 1975.
Relations have been improved by a more or less annual visit to the country from the Holy See – this year a Vatican delegation is due to arrive in June.
Up to 8.7 percent of the population in Vietnam is Catholic: reports suggest there are 2,228 parishes and 2,668 priests.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 145 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 45 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.