With half a million members, the diocese of Vinh is one of the most important in Vietnam. It was run by a much loved and well-respected bishop who resigned after celebrating with other northern bishops his 50 years as a priest.
The outgoing bishop himself welcomed his successor with unusual warmth. As Églises d’Asie noted, Mgr Paul Marie Cao Dinh Thuyên on 27 May welcomed his successor in Xa Doai Cathedral, along with his priests and many faithful.
When he arrived, Mgr Paul Nguyên Thai Hop was greeted by drums, trumpets and an applause from the representatives of the diocese’s 172 parishes and, unusual for Vietnam, with a big hug from his predecessor.
Mgr Thai Hop responded to so much warmth by saying that he would follow the example of his predecessor, upholding the traditions of the diocese. He also repeated what was said during the priestly jubilee, namely that his predecessor was a tireless pastor who knew “every kilometre of his diocese”, seen more from the venture point of a car than from the archbishop’s residence.
The new bishop publicly called on Mgr Paul Marie Cao Dinh Thuyên to continue his work, pastoral tours and diocesan administration. This way, he said, “I can learn my new job.”
The new bishop of Vinh was referring here to the fact that he was born in Lang Anh parish in 1945, but that he had left in 1954 when Catholics fled south from what was then North Vietnam.
At the age of 19, he entered the Dominican Order at Vung Tau Convent where he studied philosophy and theology. This was followed by three years of study in Eastern philosophy at the Faculty of Letters in Saigon. Ordained priest in 1972, he spent many years abroad, studying and teaching. He came back home for good in 2004.
In his years overseas, he received a doctorate in Western philosophy at the Fribourg University (Switzerland).
After moving to Latin America, he taught theology in Lima (Peru) and became the director of the local John XXIII Institute of Theology. Between 1989 and 1994, he worked at the Bartolomé de Las Casas Study Centre, also in Lima. In 1994, he obtained a doctorate in moral theology from the Faculty of Theology of São Paulo (Brazil).
In 1996, he was back in Europe to teach at the Faculty of Sociology of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
In 2004, he returned to Vietnam and began to work for the Bishops’ Commission on the Doctrine of the Faith.
He was also the director of the Paul Nguyên Van Binh Club, a recently established foundation that works on social problems.