Bishops and Catholic faithful at the inauguration of Nha Chung pastoral center in Ninh Binh province on Jan. 21. (Photo courtesy of phatdiem.org)
An ancient diocese in northern Vietnam has opened its new pastoral center amid praise for a sense of solidarity among the local Church.
Some 5,000 people attended the official opening of Nha Chung pastoral center next to the well-known Phat Diem Cathedral complex with eastern architectural features in Ninh Binh province.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City, who serves as apostolic administrator of Phat Diem Diocese, and 10 bishops blessed the new building and concelebrated the thanksgiving Mass on Jan. 21.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Hue told the congregation that the new building is the result of all local clergy, religious and laity closely cooperating in praying for, building and making enormous contributions to the new center.
He described the center as “the work of 3,000 dong” (13 US cents) as 30,000 families donated 3,000 dong per day each over the past two years for its construction, which was also given financial support by other benefactors inside and outside the country.
Archbishop Nang, who was appointed to Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese in 2019, said the inauguration was a historic day when Catholics started to use the new facility to improve their faith life and pastoral activities and then bear witness to God’s love and bring Christian values to other people. The old facilities built 100 years ago were in poor condition and could not meet increasing religious needs.
He said bishops’ houses in northern dioceses are called nha chung (communal houses) by local Catholics who see them as not only bishops’ residences but places where they gather for pastoral activities.
The prelate, who started to serve the diocese in 2009, said the building is part of the local Church’s 10-year plan that will mark the 125th anniversary of the diocese’s foundation in 2026 and the 400th anniversary of Catholicism being introduced to local people in 2027.
The four-story building with a chapel, multi-purpose halls and 195 private rooms will provide retreats, formation courses and other pastoral activities for priests, religious and laypeople.
Phat Diem Diocese, one of the southeast Asian country’s oldest dioceses, serves 154,000 Catholics.
As Vietnam’s government has relaxed its grip on religions in recent years, northern dioceses have built proper facilities to provide pastoral care for people who suffered religious persecution after 1954 when communist forces took control of the north.