Growing Vietnam Church short of priests
The Church in Vietnam is struggling to keep pace with the pastoral needs of the rapidly burgeoning Vietnamese Catholic population, according to Ho Chi Minh City archbishop, Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man.
In describing the situation to UCA News, the Cardinal added that the local Church should also take some responsibility for Vietnamese working elsewhere in the region.
When Cardinal Man began his ministry as archbishop in 1998, he recalled, the archdiocese had 510,000 Catholics. By 2005 this number rose to 630,000 people, served by 500 priests, or one priest for every 1,260 people.
The number of Catholics, however, does not include tens of thousands of migrant Catholics from other provinces.
Cardinal Man says he has ordained 150 priests over an eight-year period, but during the same time almost 100 priests died, retired or became unable to do regular pastoral work due to illness.
Although many Vietnamese priests are serving overseas including 116 in Australia, Cardinal Man said he would not invite those priests to return to Vietnam, since they "are not acquainted with local Catholics' lifestyles, feelings and thoughts or social norms."
The Cardinal also commented on the lack of facilities for churchgoers. He said old churches and many churches that have been built or repaired in recent years do not provide enough seats for parishioners who "have to stand outside the doors or even on the pavement."
The local Church "does not have enough facilities to admit vocations," the Church leader said, noting that St Joseph Major Seminary, where 210 seminarians from seven dioceses are studying, has to use its storeroom for student accommodations.
Ironically, these difficulties are the result of the Vietnamese government lifting some restrictions on the number of seminarians.
The Cardinal has expressed concern for the many Vietnamese workers in the region, especially in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines. "The Catholic Church in Vietnam "should be responsible for providing pastoral care for those people," he said.
Pictured: Notre Dame (Duc Ba) Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
Vietnam Archdiocese Hard Pressed To Serve Burgeoning Catholic Population (Indian Catholic, 12/6/2006)
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Ðuc TGM Gioan Baotixita Pham Minh Man duoc chon làm hong y (Viet Catholic)
Catholic Church in Viêt Nam (catholic-hierarchy.org) | Archbishop Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Mân | Archdiocese of Thành-Phô Hô Chí Minh
14 Jun 2006