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Appointment of new Archbishop.

Paul Bui Van Doc was appointed the new Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City on 22 March 2014, replacing Cardinal Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man who resigned as Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City shortly after his eightieth birthday. There are hopes that the new archbishop's appointment may ease relations between the communist regime of Vietnam and the Holy See.

Archbishop Bui Van Doc was born in 1944 in Da Lat, and attended seminary in Saigon and then the Pontifical Urban University. He was ordained a priest in 1970 and served as rector of Da Lat's major seminary from 1975 to 1995. He is also president of the Vietnamese bishops' conference.

The history of Vietnam has been riddled with oppression against the small Catholic community. Between 1615 when Jesuit missionaries arrived in Quang Nam and 1886 when the Van Than persecution came to an end, more than 100,000 Catholics died for their faith, 117 of whom were canonized and one was beatified. The communist authorities have always maintained that Catholicism is tied to colonization, and therefore the massacre was necessary for political reasons.

With the takeover of Vietnam by the communists, Catholic neighbourhoods have been wiped out, churches looted or destroyed, priests and religious imprisoned, and the elderly ill-treated to the point of death. Some villages have been segregated and isolated just because they are Catholic. However, the Catholic community continues to practise the faith despite the hardships and religious intolerance. They have to beware of people calling themselves members of the "Committee for Solidarity of Patriotic Catholics" or "Committee for Solidarity of Catholics" who are in the service of the communist authorities (similar to what occurs in communist China with the Catholic Patriotic Association).

In recent years, the Vietnam government has slowly relaxed its restrictions on the number of seminarians allowed. Since 2005, St. Joseph Major Seminary in Hanoi has been able to recruit annually instead of every three years. The latest statistics show that the number of seminarians studying in the major seminaries has jumped from 1,580 in 2002 to 2,186 in 2009. However, the regime forces seminarians to learn Marxist-Leninist propaganda, and they must go through a rigorous background check before ordination. The state also interferes routinely in the process of priest appointments.

In fifty years, the Catholic population has declined from ten percent of Vietnam's population, to seven percent due to the fierce and determined suppression by the authorities. A priest from Vietnam commented, "I do not know any dynasty in the history of Vietnam where Catholic persecutions are more thorough and comprehensive than in the communist era." (Read the entire interview with the priest in VietCatholicNews.net, 19 August 2013).

Archbishop Bui Van Doc is direct in his dealings with the regime. He refuted the government's claim that it had "helped" Catholics to celebrate their jubilee. He is looking at ways to foster dialogue between the Church and the atheistic doctrine espoused by Hanoi. He has also issued a series of guidelines for the Church's pastoral program in Vietnam, stressing that the Church should be "of and for the poor" and "of and for everyone" so as to fulfil the name "Catholic" to proclaim the Gospel and contribute to society. The archbishop is also working to establish diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Vietnam--one of the few countries which lacks diplomatic relations with the Vatican. This had been one of the goals of the papacy of Benedict XVI.
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Title Annotation:SOCIALIST REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM; Paul Bui Van Doc
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:9VIET
Date:Jun 1, 2014
Words:576
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