Vietnam, NOV. 2, 2009 ( The Church in Vietnam is set to begin a jubilee year, celebrating 350 years since the establishment of its first two apostolic vicariates and 50 years since the hierarchy was put in place.

Pope Alexander VII established the vicariates of Dang Ngoai (Tonkin) and Dang Trong (Cochinchine) on Sept. 9, 1659. Bishops Francois Pallu and Lambert de la Motte, both from France, were the prelates.

Then, on Nov. 24, 1960, Blessed Pope John XXIII established the Catholic hierarchy in Vietnam, elevating Ha Noi, Hue and Sai Gon (now Ho Chi Minh City) to archdioceses.

The jubilee will begin Nov. 24 and run through Jan. 6, 2011. Nov. 24 is the feast of the Vietnamese martyrs Andrea Dung Lac and 116 companions, beatified by John Paul II in 1988.

In a letter proclaiming the jubilee, the Vietnamese bishops point out that "to foster the spirit of communion in the heart of the Church," the Pope has exhorted them to "dedicate special attention" to certain priorities, especially the exercise of charity, reported L'Osservatore Romano.

"It will also be necessary to give particular care to youth, especially the young people of our countryside who, at present, are crowding into big cities to continue their studies or to find work," the prelates added.

The most important task, they affirmed, is the proclamation of the Gospel. "By fulfilling this mission, the Church contributes to the development of the person, not only on the human and spiritual plane, but also on the social plane."

The high point of the jubilee of the Church will be a Nov. 21-25 assembly "based on the model of the synod of bishops" and organized by the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City.

Some 200 delegates will attend the meeting, representing the Vietnamese Catholic community, which is about 7% of the country's 87 million inhabitants.

"The holy year encourages us to share the joy of our faith with all the members of the Vietnamese nation," the prelates wrote.

They also pointed out that the celebration of the event "is a propitious time for a retrospective look at the objective to thank God, to learn the lessons of history" and "to debate the present situation of the Church," as well as "to look at the future with the determination to construct a Church that discerns and obeys the will of God."