09/26/2006, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Bac Ninh: Mgr Quang Tuyen, who revived local church, dies

The bishop had committed himself to drawing the local Church's attention to the education of youth and priests. Thanks to him, the diocese has revived after Communist persecution.

Bac Ninh (AsiaNews) – The bishop of the diocese of Bac Ninh, Mgr Joseph Maria Nguyen Quang Tuyen, died of cancer on 24 September in America. He worked in northern Vietnam for 17 years, reviving a diocese that priests had fled due to Communist persecution.

All Catholics of the area attended the funeral service, celebrated in the cathedral of Bac Ninh the day after his death, recalling the bishop as a "common father". Born in Dai Lam on 20 September 1945, he was ordained to the priesthood on 16 September 1974 and appointed bishop of Bac Ninh on 23 March 1994.

His main commitment was to draw the local Church's attention to the education of youth and priests. Among the crowd that gathered for the service, there were more than 1,400 catechists who work for youth in all the parishes of Bac Ninh.

Nguyen Van Truong, a young volunteer, told AsiaNews: "Catechism groups go to rural and mountainous areas to take the Word of God to the poor and dispossessed. Our deceased bishop always encouraged us to see youth as a field of mission. We will carry on his teachings."

Thanks to the bishop's work, decades spent without priests – who fled the Communist north – did not prevent the diocese from keeping its faith alive. Lay people pressed ahead with common prayers despite a thousand difficulties. Thanks to their perseverance, this community saw the dawn of the Vietnamese church, which now has more than 123,000 believers, 27 priests and 299 sisters, out of a population of more than six million. But the most encouraging statistic lies in more than 4,500 youth who attend catechism classes.

The central place occupied by prayer in this diocese prompted Mgr Tuyen to hold a very special sort of competition among youth, now known as the "exam of Catholic prayer".

Since 1990, every two years, teenagers of the community come together with their teachers for some days to undergo an exam on the subject. This year, from 31 July to 31 August, a total of 4,574 youth, aged between 14 and 18, came to the bishop's residence of Bac Ninh from the districts of Dong Chuong, Vinh Phu, Thai Nguyen, Bac Giang, Gia Luong and Bac Ninh. They were accompanied by lay leaders from the different parishes.

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