Vatican ordains 57 priests in Vietnam

57 priests were ordained yesterday in Vietnam, in a move towards more religious freedom, in strongly secularized and officialy atheist country.

CLICK HERECatholic News Agency reports that the ceremony was presided over by Cardinal Crescienzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, urging the newly ordained priests to "convert more people in the southeast."

"They will be like Jesus here," Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, head of the Vatican's missionary arm, told a cheering crowd of several thousand at a ceremony in Hanoi Cathedral, a Gothic edifice built by Vietnam's French colonial rulers in the heart of the capital.

"Those who have not heard about Jesus should listen to these priests," he said. "Of the 80 million Vietnamese, only 6 million are Catholics."

Sepe was the first ranking Vatican official to be allowed to ordain priests in Vietnam, a reflection of the steadily improving ties between Hanoi's communist government and the Roman Catholic Church.

Leaders of Vietnam's Catholic Church, which dates back to French colonial days, were given blanket approval to travel to Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. They also received messages of sympathy from top Communist party leaders.

Before the ceremony, Sepe went on a procession through the narrow streets of Hanoi, packed with thousands of well-wishers, some of whom had traveled from 150 km away to witness the ordination.

Sepe met government leaders on Monday to express the Vatican's wish to improve ties with Vietnam and request for permission to build Catholic schools and publish Catholic magazines.

While the status of Catholics has steadily improved since the 1975 communist unification of the country at the end of the Vietnam War, lingering suspicion remains about the activities of Catholics and other religious leaders.

Amid concerns raised both by the US Government and the Europeans about religious freedom in Vietnam, Hanoi says it respects freedom of religion, and there are now no restrictions on individual worship. Churches are filled on Sunday and other Christian holy days.

Vatican ordains first priests in Vietnam (Catholic News Agency 29/11/05)

The Vatican asks Vietnam for persmission to build Catholic schools (ABC Radio Australia 29/11/05)
Fifty-seven new priests ordained in Hanoi, Pope appoints a new bishop (AsiaNews.it 29/11/05)
Growing Vietnam Catholic population receives new diocese, throng of new priests (Catholic News Agency 22/11/05)
Vietnam to have new diocese (AsiaNews.it 21/11/05)
Making history, 57 deacons to be ordained in northern Vietnam (AsiaNews.it 18/11/05)
Vigil for Vietnam's 'weeping' Virgin (The Australian 3/11/05)

30 Nov 2005