"We are pastors and apostles of Jesus,” he said, “ready to go on the journey of evangelisation.” The prelate remains the apostolic administrator of his old diocese, Phát Diệm, over 1,600 km away.
Hồ Chí Minh City (AsiaNews) – Mgr Joseph Nguyễn Năng (pictured) said he was “determined to serve the Church and the people of God with joy” after Pope Francis named him Archbishop of Hồ Chí Minh City (Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh, formerly Saigon) on 19 October.
The prelate, who will turn 66 next month, was bishop of Phát Diệm, where he will continue to serve as apostolic administrator. He replaces Mgr Paul Bùi Văn Đọc, who died on 6 March 2018 during the ad limina visit to the Vatican by Vietnamese bishops.
Two days after his appointment, the new archbishop met Catholic media in Hồ Chí Minh City at the see of the Diocese of Phát Diệm. Speaking to reporters about his first reaction to the Pope's decision, he said: “We are pastors and apostles of Jesus. We are always ready to go on the journey of evangelisation. A pastor always welcomes the appointment by the Holy Father.”
"The diocese of Phát Diệm has long-term pastoral programmes,” he added, “but now the Holy Father has appointed me to the Archdiocese of Saigon. I am determined to serve the Church and the people of God with joy.”
"Of course, as I move to the new diocese, I also have deep concerns (sự ưu tư). However, we always put our trust in the Holy Spirit, which is in charge of all apostolic activities of the Church.”
Mgr Năng will now be dealing with two distant places. The ecclesiastical district of Phát Diệm, which covers an area of 1,787 km² in northern Vietnam, is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Hanoi. The centre of Vietnamese Catholicism, Saigon, lies instead in the south, a distance of more than 1,600 km.
“This will be an obstacle, because a man’s health has its limits,” Mgr Năng explained. “Moreover, the Archdiocese of Saigon is large, which makes my task even more difficult.”
"Soon I will have to spend a lot of time learning about it. My main mission will be there. However, I will make arrangements to return to Phát Diệm whenever possible.”
"As we wait for the Holy See to appoint a new bishop for Phát Diệm, I will have to work to support the spirit of the laity, so that pastoral activities do not stop.”
"I believe the Diocese of Saigon and the Diocese of Phát Diệm have important human resources. Priests, religious and lay people will be active players in apostolic and pastoral activities. I hope to take up my new position next December. From today until then, I hope the Catholic community will pray for me and all the initiatives of the two dioceses.”
Bishop Joseph Nguyễn Năng was born on 24 November 1953 in Phúc Nhạc, a village in Yên Khánh district (northern province of Ninh Bình).
Between 1962 and 1970, he studied at the St Joseph major seminary in Saigon. Over the following seven years, he attended the St Pius X Pontifical College in Đà Lạt. Between 1977 and 1988, he served in Bạch Lâm parish (Diocese of Xuân Lộc), Đồng Nai province. This was followed by two years in Thuận Hòa parish in Biên Hòa City, also in Đồng Nai.
On 9 June 1990, he was ordained priest in Xuân Lộc Cathedral. He served as vicar in Thuận Hòa for eight years, before going to Rome to study from 1998 until 2002.
He returned to his diocese afterward where he was responsible for seminarians between 2003 and 2005. Later he became rector of the St Joseph major seminary in Xuân Lộc. On 25 July 2009, Pope Benedict appointed him bishop of Phát Diệm.