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Friday, July 4, 2008

"After 31 Years, Seminary in Vietnam Reopens"

From Asia News via Catholic Online

The Reopened Seminary will house 33 students, some had started their journey towards the priesthood before it was shut down.

THAI BINH, Vietnam (AsiaNews/EDA) – None of the 33 seminarians who will start a new life in the old seminary of My Duc is a boy anymore.

Their average age is over 35 with one candidate already 66 years old. The facility they will call home will reopen after being closed for 31 years.

In 1977, two years after the end of the Vietnam War, the Communist authorities ordered the closure of the seminary of the diocese of Thai Binh, in northern Vietnam, some 80 kilometres from Hanoi.

Those already studying the seminary were sent home and told not to get involved in parish work; one who did, Joseph Pham Dinh Phung, was accused of disobeying and punished with a ten-year sentence in a labour camp.

Now things have changed. On 30 May, Mgr Nguyen Van Sang, bishop of Thai Binh, announced that the authorities had returned the two-building compound to the diocese. The facility, which was built in 1936 over 2,000 hectares, includes a garden and a playing field.

This event marks a positive end to one of the main claims that the Catholic Church has launched in Vietnam to get justice and regain it seized property.

As Eglises d’Asie reports, the restitution was followed by a frantic month during which rooms were repainted and refurnished with tables, desks, beds and wardrobes.

On 23 June the bishop presided over a thanksgiving Mass attended by future teachers and all 33 students; among them, some who had started their studies more than 30 years ago.

The seminary, which now bears the name of the Sacred Heart, will help overcome the paucity of priests in the diocese, rich in vocations but forced in all these years to send its candidates to the seminary of Hanoi with a fixed number of six seminarians per year.

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