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Cablegate: Jesuits Building for the Future in Hcmc

VZCZCXRO6637
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #1085 2960748
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230748Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3265
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 2258
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0030
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3478

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001085

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM SOCI PGOV VM
SUBJECT: JESUITS BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE IN HCMC

1. (U) SUMMARY. Just three years after the passage of Vietnam's
law on religious freedom, Ho Chi Minh City's vibrant and growing
Jesuit community are operating a newly-built training facility
where 37 future priests and monks are currently studying with
the GVN's full permission -- and with no interference.
Comparing the situation today to that of just five years ago,
the predominantly U.S.-trained hierarchy of the Jesuit order
describe a "night and day" difference in the level of religious
freedom they enjoy. Thanks to the number of young new Jesuits,
the order is growing and already looking toward sending its
priests and brothers to help in other Asian countries where
there is a shortage of Jesuit religious figures. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) In August of 2007, the Jesuit Province of Ho Chi Minh
City opened its new training facility; today, 37 Jesuits
currently live in the modern "scholastic cells" and study the
Jesuits' standard curriculum. (Note: The full Jesuit training
program for brothers and priests consists lasts seven years:
three years of training in secular philosophy followed by four
years of theological training.) The students, who come from all
over Vietnam (although the majority are from the south), all
took their religious vows before entry.

3. (U) Because the facility focuses only on the first three
years of Jesuit priest's training, all of the young Jesuits
currently in training took their vows and began their training
after the passage of Vietnam's 2004 law on religious freedom.
In the students' own words, they are "completely free" in their
studies, prayers and faith. Their instructors, the vast
majority of whom were trained in the United States, describe a
"night and day" change in conditions over the past few years.
In the past, most of the Jesuit priests in Vietnam were not
officially recognized as priests by the government and had to
conceal their religious activities. Officially, they had simply
completed "college" rather than seminary abroad. Today, all of
the permanent faculty are recognized priests who practice
openly.

4. (SBU) Unlike some theological training facilities belonging
to other denominations, all courses at the Jesuit facility are
taught by religious instructors; there are no state-taught or
state-mandated classes. Leaders of the facility are hesitant to
speak about political topics (and would not want to be quoted to
the GVN), but report that they have good working relations with
local authorities. Some problems do occur occasionally,
particularly when they try to construct new buildings -- a tough
job for anyone in HCMC. Despite these problems, the Jesuits are
marching forward. Having finished classroom, dining and living
spaces, the Jesuits are now building an impressive new chapel.
Like other religious groups in HCMC, the Jesuits report that the
overall number of troublesome issues they face with authorities
at all levels is decreasing with time.

5. (U) During an October 18 visit to the Jesuits' new facility
followed by dinner with the Provincial, Rector and other senior
Jesuit leaders, CG learned that the primary medium of
instruction is English. Indeed, the vast majority of the books
in the school's library are in English and the library also
includes a language laboratory. According to the school's
Rector, the Ho Chi Minh facility combines teaching of the
standard Jesuit curriculum with teaching of English so that
graduates are prepared to continue their studies and/or
religious lives abroad upon graduation. Given the number of
Jesuits currently in training in Vietnam, the order is already
moving from a reliance on foreign-trained Jesuits to meet local
needs to becoming a net exporter of trained religious workers.
The Provincial is already in discussions with counterparts in
Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan, all of whom need more Jesuit
priests than their nations produce. Thanks both to the high
percentage of Jesuits in Vietnam who completed their training in
the U.S. and to the large number of American Jesuit priests of
Vietnamese descent, relations between the Jesuits in the U.S.
and Vietnam will certainly remain very close for years to come.

FAIRFAX

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