The national Catholic university in Vietnam has begun its fourth year by moving into brand-new headquarters. Some 150 bishops, priests, religious and other people attended a special ceremony Sept. 14 in Ho Chi Minh City to inaugurate the Catholic Institute of Vietnam’s new facility. In attendance were Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh
of Hue and Bishop Joseph Dinh Duc Dao
, rector of the institute. Archbishop Linh, the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam, said the institute now had its own headquarters for the first time since its launch in 2016
. The new building used to house retired priests from the northern diocese of Bac Ninh, which has lent it to the institute for 25 years. He said in the past the university temporarily held its courses at the headquarters of the local Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Pastoral Center of Ho Chi Minh Archdiocese.
The institute, which has limited professors and finance, will be providing theological courses for 125 students but the archbishop warned it would be a long road for the local Church to develop the institute as fully as other church institutes had around the world. Archbishop Linh called on all people to work with the institute, which was approved by the government in 2015, to open more branches and meet needs for pastoral care and knowledge. The inauguration of the new facility marked the opening of the fourth academic year of the institute. Bishop Dao, who heads Xuan Loc Diocese, the country’s largest in terms of population, said the institute would this year launch pastoral master’s degree courses to train priests and religious in pastoral work, and teach the laity how to live out faith and do apostolic missionary work in their environment. The head of the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education of Vietnamese bishops said pastoral courses would also offer local cultural, social and religious knowledge to support pastoral activities. During the inauguration, Archbishop Linh and Bishop Dao presented the first bachelor’s degree certificates on theology to 12 priests and religious throughout the country. After 1975, the communist state closed the Pontifical College based in Dalat, which offered theological courses to students from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Vietnam started to ease its grip on religious activities in the late 1980s. The local Church now has 11 major seminaries providing priestly guidance for 2,730 students from the country’s 27 dioceses.
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