Monday, March 30, 2009

Seminars address Catholic concerns

The declining proportion of Catholics to Vietnam’s overall population was addressed in a series of seminars organized by the Saigon archdiocese in March. Official statistics report 6,087,000 Catholics in 2007 out of a total population of 85,154,900; or about 7.15% of the national population. This is a decline from 7.5% of the population in 1939. In contrast, protestant Christians have surged from 400,000 in 1999 to 1.5 million in 2008, according to official figures.

Another concern is keeping Catholic converts in the fold. Conversions to Catholicism in Vietnam have averaged 35,000 annually over the last seven years, about 90% due to marriages, but the number of converts who remain active Catholics has declined dramatically. This is in part because of complications accompanying conversions, such as losing privileges and promotions at certain jobs, along with other forms of subtle discrimination directed from the government.

The seminars complained of an indifferent attitude among Vietnamese Catholics toward bearing witness to their faith. Part of the problem is that clergy have not assumed enough responsibility for directing missionary work, and hence “Missionary efforts seem to be a personal, sporadic crusade for volunteering individuals and religious orders,” said Fr. Anthony Nguyen. Dioceses lack zeal and have not designed a comprehensive missionary strategy. Another factor, of course, is government policy, which ranges from overt hostility in the Central Highlands and northern mountainous regions where pastoral activities are often hindered; to a more subtle policy of propagandizing against the church in the educational system to the point where Catholic youth want to hide their faith.

Source: VietCatholic News March 6, 9.


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