Rights of Catholics better respected in Phan Thiêt
Phan Thiêt (AsiaNews) – Overcoming many obstacles, the Church of Phan Thiêt, in Vietnam, was able to get the government to let it live “within” according to its faith but also to live and work in society to bear witness of Jesus”, this according to Bishop Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan who spoke to AsiaNews about the progress of the Church in Vietnam and his struggle to uphold the legal rights of Catholics.
The diocese of Phan Thiêt is located in Binh Thuan province, some 200 kilometres north-east of Ho Chi Minh City (ex-Saigon). It has a population of 1,122,767, including 147,000 Catholics served by 100 priests, 33 brothers and 199 sisters.
Rich in temples and towers and other cultural vestiges dating back to the times of the Champ people, the diocese was set up in 1970 under Paul VI who appointed Mgr Paul Nguyên Van Nghi to be its bishop. His successor, Nicolas Huynh Van Nghi, fought for the legal rights of Catholics but had to face many obstacles laid down by the government. Never the less, moved to action by the predicament of the poor, the unlucky children and rural minorities, he was able to get some concessions from the government.
Mgr Paul Nguyên Thanh Hoan is the current bishop. He is also chairman of the Social and Pastoral action Committee of the Bishops’ Conference.
“In 2003,” he said, “the bishop [his predecessor Nicolas Huynh Van Nghi] fought for the return of land owned by the Church. Recently, local authorities returned some 4,000 m2 where we are going to set up a training centre for social and pastoral activities that will involve parishioners, religious men and women, and priests”.
“Today,” the bishop added, “following the indications of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, pastors and the faithful are focusing their action on mission, the sacraments and assistance. We need knowledgeable and talented people to carry out our charity work. For this reason the diocese has plans for the development of the community, shelters, affordable hostels, and help for cattle farmers.”
“My family was having a hard time finding jobs and making money,” said Ms Diem Ly. “We are one of the 30 poor families who live in the parish and they gave us jobs”.
“The fathers and the nuns are helping and working with us for the poor and depressed communities. Leprosy was wiping out people from a minority group in one municipality but the Catholics saved us. More than 300 members of the group became Catholic.”