Donnerstag, 17. Juli 2014

Vietnam is to have its first Catholic university

Vietnam is to have its first Catholic university (click here)

The establishment of the new university marks a historical turning point for the Church in this communist country and a step towards complete freedom of education

Paolo affatato, vatican city

Vietnam’s first Catholic university is no longer a mirage. It is very soon going to become a reality, in fact according to Paul Bui Van Doc, Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, the structure could be ready within a year. It is going to mark a crucial turning point in the history of the Vietnamese Catholic Church, the sign of an eagerly awaited return to the freedom of education, which the communist government has denied the people for 60 years.

The Archbishop of former Saigon, proudly explained to Vatican Insider that “the dialogic approach adopted with the government is producing results.” As bilateral relations gradually relax, he said, bishops have pointed out that more and more universities and private campuses run by foreign Asian, Australian and European entities and universities have been popping up over the past decade. The first of these was established in 2001. “Why then should the Catholic Church in Vietnam be deprived of this right? Particularly given the shortcomings in the national education system, which are evident from the figures on Vietnamese education.” The Catholic Church can offer its educational philosophy and experience to educate people into becoming responsible individuals, for the good of the entire society,” the president of the local Episcopate said.

Having been kept out of the state-monopolized educational system for decades, bishops developed the project and took action once they found a gap in the institutions. They looked into forging a partnership with the prestigious Catholic University of Paris and came up with the idea of establishing an advanced Institute of theological studies in Ho Chi Minh City. Simultaneously, bishops sought pontifical status for the new Institution from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc said this will be granted “very soon now.” 

The project quickly ended up on the desks of officials in the Vietnamese ministry of education and judging from the first interviews and informal communication established, a lot of headway has been made in the process of obtaining government authorization.
“We are confident. It will mark an important step forward for the common good of the country, a sign of great hope for a brighter future for Vietnam, “Bui Van Doc said.  Education is key and for the Church, educational freedom is a crucial means of carrying out the mission of evangelizing today’s society.” Bishops will discuss the concrete steps to be taken for the establishment of the new institute, at their next assembly, which is to be held between 27 and 30 October 2014, in Nha Trang.
It would not be an exaggeration to call the establishment of this long-awaited institution a “historical turning point”. The Catholic Church’s right to freedom of education in Vietnam was taken away in 1954, when the Communist Party came to power. This ban was later implemented in Southern Vietnam, in 1975, when Catholics ran over two thousand educational structures, from kindergartens to higher education institutes. In recent years, the Church regained full freedom to admit candidates to the seminaries (previously authorized by the State) and to run kindergartens. Congregations and religious institutions often open these in remote villages and in areas affected by marginalization and poverty.
The idea to open a Catholic university first arose three years ago. In a Pastoral letter issued in 2011 and titled “Let’s build together a civilization of love and life”, the Vietnamese Church (Catholics make up 7% of the country’s over 80 million inhabitants) declared that it was ready to contribute to the country’s development in the field of education, a key sector in terms of shaping young people and their consciences. The letter officially requested that the government “open the door to religious people of good will who wish to get involved in school education.” At the time, there were 23 private universities in Vietnam (many of them foreign), that is 11% of the total. But this percentage increased in the last three years, reaching almost 30%. "As citizens the Catholics from Vietnam have an obligation to love and build their country,” the text read. Partly and above all through their service to education.

This “constructive approach” paid off, the archbishop explained, because it made the government more open to the Church’s project. The seed grew and now everything is set for the first Vietnamese Catholic university of the new age and it is even being granted pontifical status. The president of the Vietnamese Episcopate will get the chance to talk to Pope Francis about the project in Korea, in about a month’s time. Here, 

Francis will be meeting representative of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences.

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