Benedict XVI Approves New Diocese for Vietnam

«Too Many Catholics,» Says Government

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2005 ( Benedict XVI has established a new diocese in Vietnam, called Ba Ria, with territory taken from the Diocese of Xuan Loc.

The new Diocese of Ba Ria will be suffragan to the metropolitan church of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh, the Vatican press office announced today.

The Pope appointed Bishop Thomas Nguyên Van Trâm, the 63-year-old auxiliary of Xuan Loc, as the first bishop of the new diocese.

On Sunday, the Vietnamese government announced that it had given the green light for the establishment of the new diocese «because of too many Catholics» in Xuan Loc and Ba Ria, according to the AsiaNews agency.

The decision, said officials in Hanoi, was taken by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai on May 13, «at the request of the Vatican and Vietnamese bishops’ conference.»

The new diocese, measuring 1,975 square kilometers (762 square miles), includes 224,000 Catholics in a population of 908,000. It has 191 priests and 598 religious.

The new diocese, in the southeast coastal zone, brings to 26 the number of Vietnamese church districts.

AsiaNews affirmed that the move was made necessary by the growth in the number of believers in a region already dubbed «the Vatican of Vietnam.» It came in the wake of a June 27-July 2 visit to Rome by a Hanoi delegation, the first since 1992, added AsiaNews.

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