Despite Protests, Ceremony Takes Place in Peace
HANOI, Vietnam, MAY 12, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The newly appointed coadjutor archbishop of Hanoi was welcomed into that archdiocese peacefully, despite fears that the people's loyalty to their current archbishop would create conflict.
Coadjutor Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon of Da Lat, president of the Vietnamese episcopal conference, was appointed to that position April 22 by Benedict XVI.
A thanksgiving Mass was celebrated Friday upon his arrival to Hanoi, which was attended by a great number of faithful, reported the Eglises d'Asie agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris.
The agency noted that the ceremony unfolded normally despite fears of manifestations in support of the present archbishop.
It stated that emotion over the appointment, and above all fear of an eventual departure of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 57, currently head of the archdiocese, gave rise to mounting tension in the preceding days and numerous debates and statements, especially on the Internet.
Archbishop Kiet had just arrived back to Hanoi on April 9 after spending more than a month in Rome where he was receiving medical treatment.
During the prelate's absence, rumors had been circulating, including allegations of negotiations underway between the bishops' conference and the civil authorities about the archbishop's resignation and his replacement. This information was never confirmed.
Archbishop Kiet has been experiencing insomnia and physical weakness due to the strain of recent events such as hosting an Apostolic Delegation, beginning in December of 2007.
As well, he has been dealing with increased tension between the faithful and the civil authorities due to a land battle over a parish in Thai Ha, and the police's destruction of a crucifix at Dong Chiem.
Last June, during his five-yearly visit to Rome, the prelate mentioned his health concerns to Church authorities, who eventually invited him to Rome for a period of rest and healing.
The Catholic people and clergy of Hanoi, who are very close to the person of their archbishop, were at that time expressing concerns over the constant rumors regarding the replacement of the prelate.
Thus, the announcement regarding Archbishop Nhon's welcome Mass specifically requested that the faithful refrain from bringing anything "that was useless to the celebration and that they abstain from all gestures or words that might harm the good unfolding of the ceremonies."
In the end, the event organizers succeeded in avoiding incidents inside the cathedral, where there was an atmosphere of total recollection, and in limiting outbursts to outside the cathedral.
The archdiocesan seminarians helped to maintain order by asking the people carrying banners and pictures of the current archbishop to dispose of them before entering the cathedral or otherwise to stay outside.
In the atrium, numerous groups were present with pictures of Archbishop Kiet and banners with inscriptions of affection for their pastor.
During the ceremony, Archbishop Kiet introduced the new coadjutor, emphasizing the subject of communion between the pastor and his flock.
After pointing out that his present state of health justified the presence of an archbishop coadjutor, the prelate stated that when a bishop receives the charge of a diocese, he is linked to it by a bond of love, and thus Archbishop Nhon is today adopting Hanoi as his homeland.
Henceforth, the new archbishop will live, suffer and rejoice with his people, Archbishop Kiet said. He invited the faithful to obey the new archbishop as they had obeyed him.
In his response, Archbishop Nhon also highlighted the virtue of obedience.
"I come here out of obedience to God and to the Holy Father," he said. The prelate explained that, as the history of Christ and of the Church shows, this obedience is connected to the mysteries of the Cross and of suffering.
Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Thanh Hoa, vice-president of the episcopal conference, gave the homily, in which he stated that this was the occasion for the various members of the people of God to express themselves and for the bishops of Vietnam to hear the voice of the community.
The Archdiocese of Hanoi has about 335,000 Catholics in a population of some 5.4 million. The faithful are served by 91 priests and 322 religious.