In 1977, two years after the end of the Vietnam War, the Communist authorities ordered the closure of the seminary of the diocese of Thai Binh, in northern Vietnam, some 80 kilometres from Hanoi. Those already studying the seminary were sent home and told not to get involved in parish work; one who did, Joseph Pham Dinh Phung, was accused of disobeying and punished with a ten-year sentence in a labour camp.
Now things have changed. On 30 May, Mgr Nguyen Van Sang, bishop of Thai Binh, announced that the authorities had returned the two-building compound to the diocese. The facility, which was built in 1936 over 2,000 hectares, includes a garden and a playing field.
This event marks a positive end to one of the main claims that the Catholic Church has launched in Vietnam to get justice and regain it seized property.
As Eglises d’Asie reports, the restitution was followed by a frantic month during which rooms were repainted and refurnished with tables, desks, beds and wardrobes.
On 23 June the bishop presided over a thanksgiving Mass attended by future teachers and all 33 students; among them, some who had started their studies more than 30 years ago.
The seminary, which now bears the name of the Sacred Heart, will help overcome the paucity of priests in the diocese, rich in vocations but forced in all these years to send its candidates to the seminary of Hanoi with a fixed number of six seminarians per year.