Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The Holy Year of Mercy "is near, and so I chose the motto Caritas in Veritate, which reminds me my call to an honest and pure love”, says Msgr. Aloisio Nguyễn Hùng Vi, the new bishop of the diocese of Kontum.
The prelate was appointed last October 7 along with other bishops from his country, and takes the place of Msgr. Michael Hoàng Duc Oanh, who has retired on having reached the age limit. "The diocese of Kontum faces enormous challenges and difficulties - said Msgr. Nguyễn Hùng VI - I almost did not realize that I was entrusted with a great responsibility and I have yet to learn a lot about the problems that are there. I'll try to continue the missionary work of my predecessor ".
The diocese includes the provinces of Kontum and Gialai, in the central highland of Vietnam, an area of about 23 thousand square kilometers. Out of a population of about 2 million inhabitants, Catholics number almost 300 thousand, 16%.
The population is made up of several ethnic groups, the majority the kinh. Extreme poverty and leprosy are still open wounds in society. The diocese can count on 70 priests, 347 religious men and women and 1,400 members of the Yao Phu Association, who carry out catechism and evangelization in the mountainous areas.
Msgr. Aloisio Nguyễn Hùng Vi, 63, tells his story: "In 1990 I was ordained a priest and vicar of the parish of Binh Cang in the diocese of Nha Trang. After three years, the bishop of Kontum Alexis Pham Văn Lộc called me to carry out pastoral work in the diocese. I was in charge of candidates for the seminary who had studied at the universities of Saigon. After 13 years of work, the new bishop Michael Hoàng Duc Oanh sent me to Paris to study. I was there for two and a half years, and when I came back in 2010 I was made the vicar in the parish of Phương Nghĩa ".
The new bishop has summoned all the priests of the diocese to discuss the next missionary challenges (19-20 October). "In my new mission to the diocese - said Msgr. Nguyễn Hùng Vi - I have many things to do but my skills are limited. I hope my brother priests will carry the responsibility of building the Kingdom of God in mission lands together with me ".
"The diocese of Kontum has many problems - says the bishop - it is located in the Central Highlands, a land of remote areas and of a 'distant sun'. Here people’s lives are very difficult. In addition, ethnic minorities and cultural diversity are a great missionary challenge. I will focus especially on the formation of the diocesan personnel".
The Catholics of the diocese also face attacks on religious freedom, which are a constant against the Montagnard people and have soured in recent times. In early October, the former Bishop Michael Hoàng Duc Oanh wrote an open letter to local authorities against the decision of the provincial administration to demolish a house church in a small village located in a remote area of the diocese.
In addition, recently a district of the diocese has been the subject of the attack of the communist authorities, who have threatened to demolish 22 chapels used for services and prayers.