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Vietnam

Clergyman returns to northern Vietnam to be bishop

Father Joseph Nguyen Duc Cuong will be the new bishop for diocese considered cradle of Catholicism in Vietnam's north

ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi

ucanews.com reporter, Hanoi

Updated: April 26, 2018 07:43 AM GMT
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Clergyman returns to northern Vietnam to be bishop

Bishop Anthony Vu Huy Chuong (left) of Da Lat gives a zucchetto and cross to Bishop-elect Joseph Nguyen Duc Cuong at Bao Loc Church in Lam Dong Province on April 25 after the Vatican announced his appointment. (Photo courtesy of Thanh Hoa Diocese)

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A Vietnamese clergyman is returning to the region of his birth to become bishop of a diocese considered the cradle of Catholicism in northern Vietnam.

The Holy See appointed Father Joseph Nguyen Duc Cuong as bishop for Thanh Hoa Diocese on April 25, said Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, via a statement.

All churches in the 86-year-old diocese rang their bells to welcome the nomination as soon as the Vatican made the announcement. For two years the diocese has not had a bishop. It had been vacant since Archbishop Linh — who previously served as the diocese's apostolic administrator — was named as archbishop of Hue Archdiocese in October, 2016.

Archbishop Linh said Bishop-elect Cuong's appointment is "good news" for the local church.

Bishop-elect Cuong was born in 1953 in Thanh Hoa Province. A year later he and his family — including nine siblings — fled communist persecution and relocated to Lam Dong Province in southern Vietnam's Central Highlands.

Bishop-elect Cuong's predecessors — the late Bishop Bartholomew Nguyen Son Lam and Archbishop Linh — both have their origins in Thanh Hoa Diocese, where Jesuit Fathers Alexandre de Rhodes and Pedro Marquez landed for the first time to begin their evangelization work in northern Vietnam on March 19, 1627.

Episcopal nominations

Episcopal nominations for dioceses in Vietnam need approval from the communist government. After three candidates are sent to the Holy See by a diocese, the Vatican negotiates with Vietnamese officials about which candidate is best suited.

It's typically a lengthy process before both sides reach an agreement on the episcopal nomination.

In recent years, most episcopal candidates for northern dioceses have been from southern dioceses where clergy receive an education from foreign universities and colleges. Many of them, such as Bishop-elect Cuong, also have their origins from northern dioceses which they left for the south in 1954 to avoid persecution by the communists. 

Many Catholics from Thanh Hoa Diocese relocated in Da Lat Diocese where they form at least six parishes and one congregation. Many priests and religious are from those parishes.

Bishop-elect Cuong studied philosophy and theology at seminaries in Da Lat in 1964-75 and served at a parish for 11 years before resuming studies at St. Joseph Major Seminary in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in 1986.

After he was ordained a priest for Da Lat Diocese in 1992, he served at parishes, worked for the committee for doctrine of the faith, and furthered his studies at East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, the Philippines in 2012-13.

Prior to his nomination, Bishop-elect Cuong served as vice rector of Minh Hoa Seminary. 

His episcopal ordination is scheduled for June 27 at the Cathedral in Thanh Hoa City.

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