ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh City
Updated: October 22, 2015 04:54 PM GMT
Vietnamese Catholics take part in an evening Mass in this file photo. (Photo by AFP)
The newly appointed bishop of Vinh Long, one of two Vietnamese priests to receive appointments in early October, said he plans to use his position to improve evangelical practices in his province.
Bishop Peter Huynh Van Hai, who was appointed by the Vatican Oct. 7, told ucanews.com that missionary work plays a key role in his diocese.
"The diocese of Vinh Long is a diocese of missionary work, because in this diocese there are many other religions, many people in the distant villages have not known the Lord and of course, they don't know the Gospels. Despite its difficulties, we use many different means for missionary work," he said in an email interview.
The 61-year-old bishop traces his roots to the small Mekong delta province since 1966, when he studied at a minor seminary there. In 1994, he was ordained as a priest in Vinh Long, and spent the next decade pursuring a doctorate in France. For much of the last decade, he was a philosophy professor at the Seminary of St. Quy in Can Tho city.
Bishop Hai was appointed simultaneously with Father Luy Gonzaga Nguyen Hung Vi, who became Bishop of Kontum, in Vietnam's central highlands.
While religious activity is closely monitored by the communist government, the Catholic Church has enjoyed far more freedom in recent years than previously. Unlike China — which appoints its own religious officials — Vietnam these days allows the Vatican permission to appoint bishops. The Catholic population comprises about 6 million people, or 7 percent, and has enjoyed steady growth.
Bishop Hai told ucanews.com that the religion had a crucial role to play in Vietnam.
"In general the role of Catholicism in Vietnam is very important. It is important, because of the presence of the different religions: Buddhist, Caodaism, Confucianism, Hoa Hao, and because the manners of living in the modern society influence the pious life of the Catholic believers. In these contexts, study [of] Catholicism for strengthening the faith and for living the faith and proclaiming the faith is the obligation of all the parishioners, especially of all the young people," he wrote.