Catholics have praised the outgoing bishop of a northern diocese without bishops for a decade for his efforts to build Church facilities, train priests and foster evangelization work. Hundreds of priests, Religious and laypeople attended a special Mass at the Cathedral in Son Tay city to say goodbye to their former Bishop Antoine Vu Huy Chuong of Hung Hoa, who just finished serving the diocese for seven years. Pope Benedict XVI named Bishop Chuong to Da Lat diocese in the Central Highlands on March 1. His Auxiliary Bishop John Marie Vu Tat was named bishop of Hung Hoa diocese. During the Mass, Bishop Tat said his predecessor “was the bishop God sent to serve the local Church in time. We are deeply grateful to Bishop Chuong for working hard to develop the diocese.” Bishop Tat said since Bishop Chuong, 66, started to head the country’s largest diocese in terms of territory in October 2003, the number of local priests had risen from 24 to 67, major seminarians from 25 to 68, nuns from 100 to 250, and parishes from 30 to 75 serving 227,270 Catholics. The 116-year-old diocese covering part or whole of northwestern provinces and cities had been vacant for 11 years since the late Bishop Joseph Nguyen Phung Hieu died in 1992. Bishop Tat said bishop Chuong also built a pastoral center, homes for nuns and 100 churches. The outgoing bishop also gave faith education to local Catholics and developed the local Church into community of faith, liturgy and charity so that they can evangelize their neighbors, he added. Father Pierre Nguyen Thanh Binh, pastor of Sa Pa parish, said Bishop Chuong visited Catholic communities in mountainous provinces of Dien Bien, Hoa Binh, Lai Chau and Son La, where local Catholics were not allowed to gather to pray. He also worked with local government authorities for religious freedom of local Catholics, Father Binh added.
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