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Priest returns to northern Vietnam as a bishop

HANOI (UCAN): Father Joseph Nguyen Duc Cuong is returning to Thanh Hóa province, the region of his birth, to become bishop of a diocese considered the cradle of Catholicism in northern Vietnam.
Father Nguyen was appointed by the Holy See on April 25, according to a statement from Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam. Every Church in the 86-year-old diocese rang their bells to welcome the nomination as soon as the Vatican made the announcement. 
His episcopal ordination is scheduled for June 27 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Thanh Hóa City.
For two years the diocese has not had a bishop having been vacant since Archbishop Nguyen—who previously served as the diocese’s apostolic administrator—was named archbishop of Hue in October 2016.
The archbishop said the episcopal appointment is “good news” for the local Church.
Bishop-elect Nguyen was born in 1953 in Thanh Hoa. A year later he and his family—including nine siblings—fled communist persecution and relocated to Lam Dong province in southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands.
His predecessors—the late Bishop Bartholomew Nguyen Son Lam and Archbishop Nguyen—both have their origins in Thanh Hoa, where Jesuit Fathers Alexandre de Rhodes and Pedro Marquez landed for the first time to begin their evangelisation work in northern Vietnam on 19 March 1627.
Bishop-elect Nguyen studied philosophy and theology at seminaries in Da Lat from 1964 to 1975 and served at a parish for 11 years before resuming studies at St. Joseph Major Seminary in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in 1986.
After he was ordained a priest for the diocese of Da Lat in 1992, he served at different parishes, worked for the committee for doctrine of the faith, and furthered his studies at East Asian Pastoral Institute in Manila, the Philippines from 2012 to 2013.
Prior to his nomination as bishop, he was vice rector of Minh Hóa Seminary. 
Episcopal nominations for Vietnam need approval from the communist government. After three candidates are sent to the Holy See by a diocese, the Vatican negotiates with Vietnamese officials about which candidate is best suited.
It’s typically a lengthy process before both sides reach an agreement on the episcopal nomination.

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