11/26/2018, 13.50
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Mgr Joseph Vũ Văn Thiên is Hanoi’s new archbishop

by Trung Tin

The inauguration ceremony will be held in St Joseph Cathedral on 18 December. The new archbishop was the bishop of Hải Phòng for 16 years, during which he gave impetus to the diocese’s development. In Hanoi he will face the seizure and forced occupation of Church-owned assets.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has appointed Mgr Giuse (Joseph) Vũ Văn Thiên as the new archbishop of Hanoi, northern Vietnam. On 17 November, the pontiff had accepted the resignation of his predecessor, 80-year-old Mgr Phêrô (Pierre) Nguyên Văn Nhon.

Before taking over the Archdiocese of the capital, Mgr Thiên was bishop of Hải Phòng, also in northern Vietnam, not far from the Sino-Vietnamese border.

The inauguration ceremony of the new archbishop is set for 10 am on 18 December in St Joseph Cathedral.

Mgr Thiên was born on 26 October 1960 in Kẻ Sặt parish in Tráng Liệt, Bình Giang district (Hải Phòng province). He studied at the St Joseph Major Seminary in Hanoi from 1982 to 1988.

Ordained priest by Mgr Giuse Maria (Joseph Maria) Nguyễn Tùng Cương, Fr Thiên pursued his studies between 1996 and 2000 in Paris (France). Back in Vietnam, he became professor of theology at his old seminary. In 2002, Pope John Paul II named him bishop of Hải Phòng.

In 2003, Catholics make up about 2.5 per cent of the population the diocese, and could count only on 20 priests, a handful of religious institutes and congregations and some crumbling buildings.

In 16 years of service, Mgr Thiên brought the number of priests to 82 and established 30 new parishes, which now number 92. In parallel, religious associations, institutes and congregations enjoyed an important development.

Between 2007 and 2016, Hanoi’s new archbishop chaired the Youth Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam (CBCV). After his term of office, he became CBCV deputy secretary general, a post he will hold until next year.

In the capital, Mgr Thiên will have to deal with the seizure and forced occupation of Church-owned land and property by Communist authorities. However, the archbishop is not new to such matters.

In the past, he defended Phêrô (Peter) Đoàn Văn Vươn, a Catholic man arrested on the orders of Hải Phòng authorities for resisting the seizure of his land and the destruction of his home in Tiên Lãng district.

This said, Hải Phòng provincial authorities note that Mgr Thiên "has had good relations with non-Catholics and the poor”, and “has a harmonious relationship with the authorities at all levels.”

The prelate has also upgraded “diocesan institutions such as the Bishop’s Office, the St Giêrônimô Liêm Minor Seminary and the Diocesan Pastoral Centre."

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