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Vietnam

Catholics disagree on election of priests

Aspirant deputies 'are breaking canon law' but some people hope they win

ucanews.com reporters, Bangkok

ucanews.com reporters, Bangkok

Updated: May 20, 2011 11:02 AM GMT
Catholics disagree on election of priests
Father Pierre Phan Khac Tu (first right)

Countrywide elections due to take place on Sunday will see three Catholic priests standing for election despite criticism from sections of the Catholic population. Three Catholic priests aged 69-73 are among 29 religious candidates from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and indigenous faiths competing among a total of 827 candidates for 500 deputy seats in the 13th National Assembly. The priests are Fathers Joseph Tran Manh Cuong from Ban Me Thuot in the Central Highlands, Joseph Le Ngoc Hoan from northern Bui Chu diocese and Pierre Phan Khac Tu from Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese. “Priests should not enter politics. That is against canon law,” said Sister Theophila Doan Thi Chuyen from Bui Chu diocese. Sister Chuyen, 45, said local Catholics pay no attention to the candidacy of Father Hoan, who was deputy of the previous national assembly. He, like other local priest-deputies in the past, “earn no profit for the local Church. They have few voices in the assembly and no one listens to their voices,” she said. If elected, the priests will ignore their pastoral duties since they have to attend assembly sessions that last 2-3 months a year, she said. “I oppose priests who run for state organizations. I eagerly want priests to work for the Church and the common good,” said Joseph Le Tran Linh Vuc from northern Thai Binh province. This year a local priest runs for the People’s Provincial Council, he added. Vuc, a sculptor, He said many local Catholics strongly opposed the candidature of Father Vincent Nguyen Van Tuyen, pastor of Trung Chau parish in Hung Yen province, who gathered parishioners at the parish house to conduct a campaign for the elections on April 29. However, some Catholics said they respect the decision of the priests to run for election. Mary Phan Thi Lan from Ho Chi Minh City said Catholics should sympathize with those priests who are nominated as candidates by government authorities. “These priests also have goodwill to serve the nation,” she added. Lan, 35, who works for a media company, said she hoped priest-deputies will make their voices heard to improve the government’s religious policies. Father Tu, who already served as assembly deputy for three terms, said that although the three priest candidates for the national assembly have not been nominated by local Church leaders, “we work for the voice of our conscience.” The 73-year-old priest, who is active in social activities, said local religions have their members present in the national assembly so Catholic priests also have to be represented. “I run for the coming elections to the national assembly because I love the local Church and the nation,” he said. If elected, he said, he will ask the assembly to enforce the law on religious activities. He will also work for a just society, fight against corruption, enhance interests of the underprivileged and people with physical disabilities, he added. Father Tu, who serves as chief editor of the government-sanctioned Cong Giao va Dan Toc (Catholicism and Nation) Weekly, also gave up heading Vuon Xoai parish at the end of April to run for the assembly elections. Related report Priests to run for Vietnam Parliament

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