05/29/2009, 00.00
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If we ask, they don’t give us our churches; if we ask them to grant them to us, perhaps they will

The approach to local authorities by the bishop of Bac Ninh, also known as the bishop of the poor, of unfortunate children and lepers in Than Binh Parish, might work.
Bac Ninh (AsiaNews) – “When we ask the authorities to return the land for our churches, they say no; when we ask them to grant us the land to for the sake of the people they will do it in the end,” said Mgr Cosme Hoang Van Dat, bishop of Bac Ninh (pictured). He wants his parishioners to adopt this approach after trying unsuccessfully so many times to rebuild their places of worship. Mgr Hoang Van Dat is known as the bishop of the poor, of unfortunate children and lepers in Thanh Binh Parish in Ho Chi Minh City’s 2nd District, but few people know about the Leprosy Hospital which has been in existence since before 1975, and which currently has 360 patients.

The diocese of Bac Ninh covers five provinces: Bac Ninh, Bac Giang, Thai Nguyen, Bac Kan, and Vinh Phuc as well as some districts in seven other provinces like Lang Son, Tuyen Quang, Ha Giang, Phu Tho, Hung Yen, and Hai Duong.

Its area is home to more than 7.3 million people, who include ethnic Vietnamese (Kinh) and members of the San Diu, H’mong, Dao, Meo, Cao Lan, Chinese, Tay and Nung minorities, most of whom are very poor, living in rural and isolated mountain areas.

“On Christmas and Easter I go to say Mass in poor and isolated Catholic communities. Since I am also in charge of Than Binh Parish for lepers, I take part in their pastoral and social activities,” the bishop told AsiaNews.

“The diocese was created in 1883. It has 125,000 lay members and 43 priests operating in 47 parishes spread over an area of 24,600 km2,” he said.

“After 1954 a lot of Church-owned properties was taken over by local Communist authorities. The faithful need places to pray and have unsuccessfully written to the authorities asking for restitution. Now we are asking them to grant us the land, telling them that we do not lead people astray. In the end they will give land to the people,” he said.

This is one way to pursue missionary action in Vietnam. The authorities cannot stop people’s development because of the latter’s spiritual needs.

“We, our Churches, walk and work with the poor,” the Holy Father said.

This evinces the love of Jesus and the Church’s humanity towards all.

We are at peace in our hearts and work for the humane development of socialism.

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See also
Catholic seminarians work for the first time in state-run leprosarium
Abortion, pastoral work and repression: the challenges of the "bishop of the lepers"
After 31 years Thai Binh seminary to reopen
Children and the illiterate learning to read the Bible in Cambodian
Fr Nguyen Van Ly arrested in Huế


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