Diocese of Nha Trang
  • share this post
  • resize textlarger | smaller

In a land area of 9,486.25 square kilometers, Nha Trang diocese's territory covers the two provinces of Khanh Hoa and Ninh Thuan.

Population

In 2005, it had a total population of 1,650,000 from 32 ethnic groups. As of Dec 31, 2008, it had 194,275 Catholics. Some are other Christians, Buddhists and those who embrace indigenous beliefs. The rest are atheists.

Language

The main language in the area is Vietnamese but some ethnic groups use their own languages within their residence.

History

The diocese was erected as apostolic vicariate on July 5, 1957. Three years later, it became diocese when the Vietnamese Catholic hierarchy was established on Nov. 24, 1960. The diocese belongs to the ecclesiastical province of Hue which comprises Hue Archdiocese and other four dioceses of Ban Me Thuot, Da Nang, Kontum and Qui Nhon.

Local Catholics are proud of receiving seeds of Good News from foreign Jesuits and Franciscans as early as in the mid 17th century. On Sept. 1, 1671 French Bishop Pierre Lambert de la Motte, first bishop of Dang Trong (Cochinchine), accompanied by some priests including two Vietnamese priests, visited and administered Confirmation to 200 local people at Cho Moi parish in Nha Trang city.

Dang Trong and Dang Ngoai (Tonkin) were the first two apostolic vicariates established by Pope Alexander VII on Sept. 9, 1659.

Local Catholics who were faithful to Catholicism suffered from bloody persecution at the hands of imperial soldiers. Relics of many are kept in some local parish churches.

Catholic population increased dramatically after the diocese received tens of thousands of people from many central provinces during the Vietnam War (1959-1975).

Foreign missioners, most of them from Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP, Paris Foreign Missions Society), built facilities and trained personnel, setting up the basic structures which would become Nha Trang diocese later. As recently as 1958, French MEP Bishop Marcel Piquet Loi (Loi is his Vietnamese name), first bishop of Nha Trang, founded a minor seminary, the diocesan Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in 1958 and a Carmelite monastery in 1960.

MEP members also built irrigation channels for hundreds of hectares of cultivable land to facilitate rice and tobacco production in Ninh Thuan province. These irrigation channels are still used today.

According to diocesan records, 23 MEP missioners worked in the diocese from its establishment in 1957 until 1975, when last people were forced to leave the country by communists who reunified the country.

After 1975, many Church facilities were confiscated or closed. Many clergy were sent to prisons for years or served sentences in reform-through-labor farms.

Bishop Paul Nguyen Van Hoa, the second Vietnamese bishop of the diocese, re-established Sao Bien (Stella Maris) Major Seminary on Dec. 31, 1991. Its theological faculty became an affiliation to the Rome-based Pontifical University of Urbaniana in April 2008. The Nha Trang city-based major seminary standing on a 1.17-hectare plot of land provides priestly formation for students from three dioceses of Ban Me Thuot, Nha Trang and Quy Nhon.

In May 2002 the Centre for Traditional Medicine run by Divine Word Society (SVD) celebrated its 20th anniversary in Nha Trang. The centre has a staff of more than 12 medical doctors and experts for herbal medicine. Patients who have difficulty to pay the bill, are treated free of charge. The centre exists on the meagre income gained from the patients and on free donations.

In the beginning of the year 2004, the Vietnamese government relented its restrictive policy somewhat and gave permission that some priests who were ordained without government permission may continue to exercise their ministry openly when they have completed an additional two-year theology course. Bishop Paul Nguyen Van Hoa of Nha Trang, then president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam inaugurated the first course of 38 candidates with government approval in Jan. 2004 in Sao Bien in Nha Trang diocese.

The diocese, which marked its 50th anniversary in 2007, launches detailed plans to evangelize the ethnic Cham group forming 40,000 people, and some other 170,000 people from other ethnic minority groups who have not heard about the gospel.

The diocese's Principal Patron is Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dec. 8.

Transportation

There is one domestic airport, Nha Trang Airport, in Cam Ranh, 40 kilometers away from the city. It caters domestic flights from and to Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh city and other provinces.

Buses, motorbikes, vans and trains serve as major modes of land transportations within the area while the island villages could be reached by ships and motor boats.

Climate

Nha Trang diocese is located in the south-central part of Vietnam. The diocese receives rainfall mainly from south-eastern monsoons during September. The average annual temperature in Khanh Hoa province is 26.7 degrees Celsius, and there are high humidity levels 80.5%.

Economy

Tourism, fishing and farming are the main sources of livelihood of its people. Main crops are rice, banana, cashew, root crops, corn and sugar cane among others. Several local districts serve as the main producers of rice that supplies the whole area.

Nha Trang coastal city and Phan Rang - Thap Cham town home various tourist spots, resorts, and destinations, especially religious sites that attract both domestic and foreign tourists for fun and leisure.
Nha Trang bay is listed in the world's most beautiful bays. The bay is also the source of the much sought-after but expensive bird's nest of the Balinsasayaw birds which is supposedly extremely good for one's health.