09/02/2015, 00.00
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For Xuan Loc coadjutor, the future theological institute is a milestone in Vietnamese Church’s growth

For Mgr Joseph Dinh Duc Dao, president of the Episcopal Commission for Education, the establishment of a Catholic university confirms the vitality of Vietnam’s Church, providing a venue for theological research and dialogue with other religions and the government. For the bishop, it will also allow Vietnamese Catholics to follow Pope Francis and bring the “joy of faith” to the edges of society.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – For Mgr Joseph Dinh Duc Dao, coadjutor bishop of Xuan Loc and president of the Episcopal Commission for Education, the opening of a Catholic Institute of Theology in Vietnam is “very important step for Catholics and the local Church". It is a sign that the latter “is very much alive and can contribute significantly to the country's life."

On 6 August, the official ceremony marking the birth of the new institution was held at the headquarters of the Bishops’ Conference in Ho Chi Minh City in the presence of senior Church and government officials.

Although some issues remain unresolved, both parties wanted the event to be public. During the solemn ceremony, government representatives handed the official permit to Church leaders, marking a milestone in the development of a future Christian university. 

"The Church in Vietnam needs a university-level institution to engage in theological brain-storming, starting first of all from the actual experience of faith,” said Mgr Dinh. For the prelate, it is "important" to take all the steps necessary to help the Church grow.

“Today’s world is influenced by ideas, research and studies,” he said. “Given so many changes happening in Vietnam, Catholics need a school to formulate and develop their ideas.” Hence, the Church "needs some venue where it can reflect and encourage exchange with Buddhism,” he added. In short, the Church “needs its own institute.”

It is still unclear where the theological institute will be built, how many students it can accommodate, or when courses can start.

“Initially, we are going to begin at the headquarters of the Bishops’ Conference,” Mgr Dinh said. “But we are looking for a suitable location in Ho Chi Minh City, because the structure will be built for sure in the former Saigon."

In a couple of weeks, Vietnamese bishops will meet to “look further at the issue,” said the prelate, “and lay down our future steps.” The government did grant some permits, but we “are waiting for a green light from the Holy See to go ahead.”

"These steps are a sign of a living Church,” he said. The Church “wants to grow in belief and faith; not only inside, but also in dialogue with civic and religious institutions in order to contribute to the growth of the nation."

Catholics "have long been active in social and pastoral initiatives for the poor, the sick, and the needy,” the prelate explained. “As Pope Francis said, we have to go out, to the edges [of society] to bring the joy of faith to others . . .”

For the bishop, the "Joy of faith is the main trait of the Vietnamese Church. Now we have to reflect on this experience. The theological institute will be important for this."

Vietnam used to have a pontifical College and other Catholic educational facilities, which the government seized, especially after reunification in 1975. In other cases, like at universities in Saigon and Dalat, courses were dropped.

At present, the site of the old Pontifical College in Dalat is the centre of a dispute with the authorities. It is still unclear whether it will be returned to Catholics or not.

Ownership of land and buildings is one of the outstanding issues between Church and state.

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