2 Ordained in Vietnam After 40-Year Wait

Communist Takeover Led to Long Delay

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HANOI, Vietnam, FEB. 28, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Two men whose preparation for the priesthood was interrupted by the Communist regime decades ago, have finally made it to ordination.

Michel Hoang Minh Hung and Joseph Nguyen Van Hien, who entered the seminary in 1964 and 1967, respectively, were ordained last Wednesday for the southern Diocese of Phan Thiet.

In 1975, the year the Communists took over South Vietnam, all seminaries in the country were closed.

The Paris-based Eglises d'Asie agency said the two priests' ordination came after both underwent "two years of theological recycling."

Vatican Radio referred to these two ordinations as "a step forward for the improvement of relations between the Catholic Church and the Vietnamese government."

"Another sign of relaxation and normalization was launched last December, during the visit to the country of Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples," added the papal broadcasting station.

"During his stay," it reported, "the cardinal ordained 57 priests, visited three ecclesiastical regions, held meetings with some bishops, and presided over the ceremony for the erection of the new Diocese of Ba Ria, with the installation of its first bishop, Monsignor Thomas Nguyên Van Trâm."

The Holy See and Vietnam do not enjoy diplomatic relations, but for some time they have been drawing closer.

The Phan Thiet Diocese has 1 million inhabitants, including 150,000 Catholics. It now has 82 priests.

About 6 million of Vietnam's 83 million inhabitants are Catholic.