HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam—Priestly ordinations — rarely permitted in Vietnam — will be conducted on March 18 by Archbishop John Baptist Pham Ming Man at the Cathedral of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon.

The nine candidates for ordination are all members of religious orders. They include two Dominicans, two Jesuits, two Redemptorists, one Franciscan, one Sulpician and one member of the local Nazareth Institute. The Communists' permission for the ordinations is seen by many as another sign of a small opening toward religion.

Vietnam's communist government restricts ordinations to maintain some control over the activities of the Catholic Church. Government officials judge the candidates' qualities, set the number for each seminary, and can veto the assignments of new priests. Nevertheless, vocations continue to flourish in Vietnam.

Viewed with suspicion because they are usually international in scope and membership, religious orders are not officially allowed to accept candidates or open novitiates, although several institutes have unofficial formation houses.

The nine new priests range in age from 32 to 67 years. Because many who finish their studies while still young and have to wait years before they can begin their ministry, it is not unusual for new priests to be of mature age.