Vietnamese bishops fear demise of Bible studies
Prelates call for national network to rejuvenate interest in the word of God, say most children given a Bible don't read it.
Groups of people discuss how to provide Bible courses for Catholics at a pastoral center in Vietnam's Nha Trang City on Feb. 19. (Photo courtesy of Nha Trang Diocese)
Participants at a Bible conference in Vietnam have urged church leaders to develop Bible programs for Catholics to bear witness to God's Word in their daily lives.
Over 150 bishops, priests, nuns and laity nationwide attended the National Conference on the Bible at Nha Trang Diocese's Pastoral Center in Nha Trang City from Feb. 19-21.
The Episcopal Commission for the Bible of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam organized the three-day meeting, which ran under the banner, "The Word of the Lord Endures Forever."
Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi told attendees that the nation's 27 dioceses should run Bible-based ministry activities to teach parishioners useful ways to study, pray with and preach God's word in a practical sense and on a daily basis.
"In reality, we invest heavily in building facilities but pay scant attention to publishing materials to aid Bible studies or offer Bible courses for lay Catholics," Archbishop Thien said.
He said many children who receive copies of the New Testament never end up reading them. They must be taught to love God's wisdom, he added.
The church leader said lay Catholics from northern dioceses have suffered from a lack of priests for years, and have formed the habit of merely reciting prayers instead of contemplating God's Word.
He said priests must carefully explain passages from the Bible to parishioners at liturgical services.
Archbishop Thien suggested Catholics should be given readings to help them celebrate the Eucharist, to pray alone at home, at funerals, and at commemorations of those who have passed away.
He encouraged Vietnamese Catholics to use the internet and social media to preach the word of God to others, especially young people who surf the Web daily.
"Living a moral life, creating a sense of solidarity and engaging in charitable activities are also effective ways of introduce the Good News to others," he said.
Jesuit Father Anthony Nguyen Cao Sieu, a professor of Bible studies, said local churches must train priests, religious people and laity to organize Bible courses for lay Catholics.
Seminaries and institutes should also give students more time to reflect on biblical passages, he added.
Salesian Father Joseph Tran Hoa Hung said a clearer understanding of the Bible teaches Catholics how to better engage in dialogue with followers of other religions.
Father Hung urged attendees to focus their evangelization efforts on those living in rural or socially peripheral areas, ethnic groups, and marginalized people.
The Bible is a lodestar for those committed to seeking justice and peace in societies filled with injustice and hatred caused by human sins, he said.
He suggested a national network of Bible ministry be established, and asked that more copies of the Bible be published and disseminated across the country.
Bishop Joseph Vo Duc Minh, head of the commission, said the Vietnamese Church has already translated the Bible from Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin into Vietnamese to serve local Catholics.
It has published 300,000 copies of the Old and New Testament as a single edition, and over two million copies of the New Testament as a standalone text, he said.