.- Because of a recently-burgeoning Catholic population, Pope Benedict XVI has decided to erect a new diocese in the harshly communist country of Vietnam.
The Vatican has announced that the Diocese of Ba Ria, which now becomes home to more than 224,000 Catholics, as well as 191 priests and 598 religious, will be headed by Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tram, who leaves his post as auxiliary in the Diocese of Xuan Loc.
Bishop Nguyen will now take leadership over territory taken from his former diocese, Xuan Loc, thus making the new see a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh.
In addition, the Vatican plans to ordain 57 new Vietnamese priests later this month--the largest number of clergy ever to be added to a communist nation in one ceremony.
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, a senior Vatican envoy from Rome, will preside over the November 29th ceremony at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi.
According to reports, relations between the Holy See and the Vietnamese government--noted for its continued violation of religious freedoms--continue to improve, much to the benefit of the country’s nearly 6 million Catholics.