Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews/EdA) - During its first annual meeting of the year, the Vietnamese Bishops' Conference focused on a number of issues, from the problems associated with pastoral care to diocesan reform, including territorial reform, through Church-state relations hinting at the "open letter" in which the bishops expressed hope for a reform of the constitution that would end the country's one-party state. Every bishop, except the bishop of Da Nang absent for health reasons, was at the meeting, which took place 1 to April 5 at the shrine of Bai Dau in Vung Tau, in the diocese of Ba Ria, in the south of the country. Mgr Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident pontifical representative to Vietnam, spoke on behalf of the Holy See, commenting on the latest events in the Vatican and the ascent of Pope Francis to the Petrine throne.
The conference's secretary general, Mgr Cosme Hoang Van Dat, spoke about the main issues discussed at the bishops' first annual meeting in a recent interview posted on the Bishops' Conference website and picked up by Église d'Asie (EDA). In it, the prelate said that the 'new evangelisation' by the Church in Vietnam and the birth of a 'school of theology' were among the most discussed topics.
However, the bishops also addressed the issue of relations with government authorities, in particular, the campaign for constitutional reform launched by a group of citizens and activists, which the bishops strongly support.
"We were able to discuss," Mgr Van Dat said, "the state's attitude to the letter of the Bishops' Conference that offered proposals and comments for reform. We hope that our dialogue with the state, as well as with the authorities at various levels will develop in depth and prove very effective," the Secretary General added.
The meeting showed that the Vietnamese Church and, the whole universal Church more generally, "were truly experiencing the mystery of the resurrection. Christ was with us; he accompanies us and transforms us into witnesses."
The meeting's "peaceful and brotherly" atmosphere was representative of the unity among the prelates, both in terms of work and "deep spirituality", as well as in terms of leisure, best illustrated one evening when "we went to swim in the sea."
Finally, the general secretary of the Vietnamese bishops noted the "attention" with which they followed events in Rome, from the renunciation of Pope Benedict XVI to the election of Francis, through the Synod of Bishops and the new evangelisation.
As for the life of the Church in Vietnam, participants also discussed charitable activities, the promotion of studies abroad for future Vietnamese priests and religious as well as Vietnam's Diaspora, the immigrants and refugees who left their country of origin for other places.