Hanoi (AsiaNews/EDA) - Vietnam's dioceses "are closely tied to each other" but they still cannot speak "with one voice," said Pierre Nguyen Van Vien, until recently the vicar general of the Diocese of Vinh, central Vietnam, home to half a million Catholics. Speaking to the Vietnamese section of Radio Free Asia (RFA), the newly appointed auxiliary bishop of Vinh said that the Catholic Church "cannot live on the margins of society" but has to play an important role in the great changes taking place in the country by enhancing its "means of communication and information."
As he awaits for his ceremony of consecration, the new bishop talked about the vibrant and active life of his community whose members participate with enthusiasm in diocesan initiatives despite difficulties and violence they face. In recent months in fact, the authorities have cracked down on local Catholic activism, arresting dozens of people and sentencing them to many years in prison.
Yet, in spite of Communist persecution, the Catholic Church continues to grow in Vietnam. This is especially true in Vinh, an area that can count on four key traits that the new auxiliary considers fundamental for the greater presence and participation of the faithful.
First, "the land of this diocese," Fr Van Vien said, "is soaked with the sweat and tears of the missionaries"; in particular, the "martyrs" who survived "different periods of persecution."
Secondly, "almost 100 per cent of the faithful are practicing, most of them poor," who, and this is the third point, put "their trust in the Lord more than others do because they rely on Him for guidance in their lives."
The fourth and last element of strength is "the abundance of vocations," i.e. those who choose the "consecrated life." At the Major Seminary in Vinh Thanh, "hundreds of applications" have been received, he said, even though only a few dozen openings are available.
At the same time, Mgr Pierre Nguyen Van Vien does not hide the fact that the local Church faces difficulties it must overcome over time, such as the education of children in "a Christian spirit" in a country that imposes serious limits to the teaching of the catechism; the participation of Catholics in the life of the diocese; the question of land ownership and the availability of space, and the paucity of tools of social communication.
For the new auxiliary bishop of Vinh, this last point is indeed the most important one to address and resolve. The lack of adequate means of communication and information is the biggest "hurdle" faced by the diocese, he stressed.
"The Church in Vietnam has no radio shows, no radio station, no newspaper or publishing houses," he noted.
"We live in an era in which information spreads quickly," the prelate said, and yet "Most Vietnamese Catholics cannot benefit from it" as they should. The end result is that proclaiming the Word of God "faces many difficulties."