An American archbishop has joined his counterparts in Vietnam to mark the opening of the first college-level Catholic school in the country in about 40 years.

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who travelled on behalf of the US bishops’ conference, said he wanted Vietnamese Catholics to know “they are not forgotten”.

“The Church in Vietnam has suffered hardships and religious repression, and slowly over these 40 years there are some headways that have been made,” the archbishop told Catholic News Service.

“I think the episcopal conference of Vietnam is naturally looking for friendship and opportunities to be able to [receive] support, not just tangibly, but kind of a heartfelt support that this visit showed,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “And this means a lot to them because so many of their family members migrated to the United States.”

Archbishop Kurtz said the new Catholic Institute of Vietnam was a “significant step that the Church has been able to take with the government.”

“In Vietnam, pretty much everything needs prior approval by the government,” so it was impressive “that after a long period of negotiation, the government was able to approve this institute, which someday will become a university.”

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