Catholics Multiply in Vietnam

THE UNIVERSE, Nov. 18 — The easing of restrictions on the freedom of religion in Vietnam is being credited with a surge in the number of the country’s Catholics, according to the British Catholic newspaper.

A series of new laws enacted over the past two years in Vietnam has meant that restrictions on the training of Catholic priests have now been eased, which has led to an increase in both the number of priests in Vietnam and numbers of people attending Mass. The moves have also been recognized by the United States government, who last month announced that it would be removing Vietnam from its list of countries of particular concern list, which listed the countries with the poorest record on religious freedom.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford said, “When we designated Vietnam a [country of particular concern], only three Christian groups were able to practice in the country legally and then with some strict limitations. Catholics were practicing but with an aging clergy, and they were in dire need of the freedom to train and ordain new priests to serve their congregations.

He added, “As one example of progress, in November of last year, 57 new priests were ordained in Hanoi and have since been posted to minister to the needs of Church members.”

Hindu Extremists Assault Catholic Women Religious

SPERO NEWS, Nov. 20 — The Church condemned an attack in India against members of a Catholic women’s religious order and the desecration of a Catholic church by Hindu extremists, reported Spero News.

Archbishop Bernard Moras of Belgaum, India, said the recent incidents are “new signs of anti-Christian hatred that must be stopped.” On Nov. 19, a group of Hindu fundamentalists allegedly attacked the Carmelite Seminary in Carmelaram, a suburb of Bangalore. After smashing their way into the premises through a window, they reached a small grotto dedicated to the veneration of the Virgin Mary. According to AsiaNews, they desecrated and then destroyed the statue of Our Lady, eventually fleeing after a postulant sounded the alarm.

For the archbishop, the attack and the desecration “are very serious deeds and show the hatred against our faith. I have sought out state authorities, explaining to them that the spiral of violence is getting worse and must be stopped.”

“Violence,” Archbishop Moras said, “is taking place in every corner of the state. Attacking our images is a way of attacking us and our faith.”

Russian Orthodox Cleric Says Catholics Are Allies

REUTERS, Nov. 20 — A top Russian Orthodox cleric told Reuters that the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church were allies in the face of hostile secularism. 

Metropolitan Kirill, the head of external relations for the Moscow Patriarchate, has met Pope Benedict and is thought to be pushing for closer ties with the Catholic Church. 

The Russian Orthodox Church, which split from Rome in the Great Schism of 1054, was cool toward Pope John Paul II, a Pole who had campaigned against communism and sought in vain to visit post-communist Russia. However, senior Vatican officials have said they are working towards an eventual meeting between Pope Benedict and Patriarch Alexei II. 

“In the Vatican, and not only in the Vatican but all over the world, Catholics understand that Orthodox are their allies,” he said. “And Orthodox are more and more coming to understand that Catholics are their allies in the face of hostile and non-religious secularism.”