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Pope Francis receives on Monday, March 5, 2018, 32 bishops of the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam on their “ad limina” visit in the Vatican.

The Vietnamese bishops last made an ad limina visit in June 2009 with Pope Benedict XVI.

In their ad limina apostolorum – “to the tomb of the apostles” – visit, Vietnamese bishops visited and celebrated their first Mass at the chapel of The Chair of Peter next to tomb of St. Peter on Saturday, March 3.

Presiding the Mass, Archbishop Joseph Nguyễn Chí Linh of Huế, the President of the Episcopal Conference expressed bishops’ joy to be in Rome to show deep links of fidelity and love that the faithful in Vietnam feel for the Church and for the Pope, asking the congregation to pray intensely for the universal Church and the Church in Vietnam, in particular.

In his homily on the Prodigal Son parable, Bishop Joseph Nguyễn Năng, the Vice-President of the Episcopal Conference urged the reconciliation to God as the pre-requisite for the communion in the Church that, in turn, gives impetus to missionary zeal.

“At the tomb of St. Peter, inspired by the parable in today’s Gospel, the command to proclaim the Good News throughout the world (ad gentes) resonates intensively across the Church in Vietnam”, the prelate said.

Challenges and difficulties are always being there on the road of mission, each age has its own problems, he continued, emphasizing that the main obstacles are not external hurdles rather than the inner attitude of Christ’s disciples who choose to withdraw inside the walls of the Church.

As a matter of fact, among the population of 96,160,000, the Catholic proportion has fallen to 6.6% from a known estimation of 10% in early decades of twentieth century. The Church in Vietnam has 26 dioceses, including three archdioceses, with 2228 parishes and 2668 priests. 

Since the mid-1980s, Vietnam has made a shift from a highly centralized command economy to market-oriented economy resulting in large amounts of foreign investment have been poured into the country. However, investors seem to focus mainly on major cities that meet their needs. Therefore, over the last decade, the Church has been puzzled by a great internal youth migration phenomenon. Among crucial problems facing the Church is an appropriate pastoral care for young internal migrants, who are attracted by the metropolies to find jobs or to continue their advanced studies. They are facing great risks of being uprooted from their local traditions and faith, and not being able to seek ethical advice and practical directives.