.- The Church in Vietnam received two new bishops today from Pope Benedict XVI. Elevated to the office of bishop are Fr. Laurent Chu Van Minh for the Archdiocese of Hanoi and Fr. Pierre Nguyen Van Kham for the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City.
Bishop-elect Chu is currently the rector of the major seminary in Hanoi, Vietnam and has been appointed as an auxiliary bishop for the 328,725 Catholics of the Archdiocese of Hanoi. Although Fr. Chu is 65 years old, he was not ordained to the priesthood until 1994 because his family was persecuted by the Vietnam´s Communist government.
Even though he completed his philosophy studies for the priesthood in 1967, Fr. Chu was prevented from continuing his priestly education by the communist government. Meanwhile, he lived with his family and worked as a hairdresser as well as serving as a catechist in his parish. In 1992, he was allowed to study theology, which he completed in 1994. Finally, on June 10, 1994 Laurent Chu was ordained a priest at the age of 51.
Fr. Pierre Nguyen Van Kham, who was previously the executive secretary of the Vietnamese bishops´ conference, will serve the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City´s 640,437 Catholics as an auxiliary bishop.
Born in Ha Dong, Vietnam in 1952, Bishop-elect Nguyen´s family became refugees in Saigon when he was two years old, due to the turmoil roiling the country at that time.
Fr. Nguyen studied philosophy at Saint Thomas Seminary in Long Yuen and then theology at Saint Joseph´s Seminary in Saigon. Ordained a priest in 1980, Fr. Nguyen also received his doctorate in pastoral theology from the Catholic University of America (2001-2004).
The Catholic Church in Vietnam is currently being persecuted by the Communist government because it has been peacefully protesting the illegal seizure of its land in numerous locations throughout the country. The campaign of persecution has included the interrogation and imprisonment of journalists, the distortion of the Archbishop of Hanoi´s statements, the fabrication of Church dissenters in the state media and the forceful use of intimidation by state police against peaceful parishioners.