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Vietnamese clergy play soccer to 'live spirit of synodality'

Twenty priestly soccer teams are competing to become winners of the first-ever National Synodal Cup
Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien speaks before a match between Clergy Hanoi and Hai Phong at Phong Phu stadium on July 19

Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien speaks before a match between Clergy Hanoi and Hai Phong at Phong Phu stadium on July 19. (Photo: UCA News)

Published: July 21, 2022 03:28 AM GMT
Updated: December 29, 2022 10:29 AM GMT

A large number of people, including Church and government leaders, have been attracted to the first soccer matches among priests at a public stadium in northern Vietnam.

On July 19, Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi, Bishop Dominic Hoang Minh Tien of Hung Hoa, priests from four dioceses and officials from Ha Nam province were among the spectators at two matches at Phong Phu stadium.

The first match was between Clergy Hanoi and Hai Phong and the second match was between Clergy Bac Ninh and Hung Hoa. All of them formed Group A, one of four groups with 20 teams competing for the first-ever National Synodal Cup organized by Vietnamese bishops.

Before the matches, the crowd said prayers and sang hymns to pray for the players, while Church leaders and provincial officials offered flowers to the teams and referees as a way to encourage them to play fairly.

It was the first time football fans, players and guests have solemnly prayed as a group at a public stadium in the Southeast Asian country.

During the matches, the crowd got into the spirit of things by waving flags and shouting encouragement to the teams, while Catholic groups played drums and trumpets.

"All people walk together on a path to achieve the main purpose of glorifying God"

Ta Bien Cuong, a Catholic sportscaster from national television, declared: "Today God is among us at the stadium."

Cuong said Pope Francis had called on athletes at the 2022 Mediterranean Games in the Algerian city of Oran to make sports a direct experience of unity and fraternity.

He said it was wonderful that the local Church was holding a national soccer championship to look toward a synodal church.

Archbishop Thien said the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam launched the synodal cup to partly live the spirit of synodality in faith, pastoral ministries and charity. All people walk together on a path to achieve the main purpose of glorifying God and bringing happiness to people.

The deputy secretary-general of the bishops’ group said soccer has spread among all places, races, languages and cultures around the world, bringing all peoples into one to build peace.

“Our special players are priests who will try their best to play fairly, show their fondness for the game and the spirit of synodality,” he said.

The Clergy Hai Phong team scored a goal against Hanoi thanks to Father John Baptist Bui Van Thai while the Bac Ninh team beat Hung Hoa 3-1.

The four teams are expected to compete against one another at the stadium on Aug. 3 and 9. The two best teams will advance to the quarter-finals.

The tournament taking place from July to October aims to improve the mental and physical health of the local clergy, and foster priestly fraternity among the country’s 27 dioceses. It will also welcome the 15th National Congress of Vietnam bishops in October and show synodality in the run-up to the 2023 assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

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