Today, the new priests celebrated their first Mass in their parish of origin in the company of family and friends. However, yesterday another important event took place. At 3 pm, Ngo Thi Thanh Hang, deputy president of the People’s Committee of Hanoi, accompanied by a delegation, visited the archbishop and his auxiliary to exchange Christmas greetings.
For Catholics, this action is a symbolic attempt at reconciliation. Two years ago, in January 2008, she issued an ultimatum against the prelate, threatening him of extreme actions if he did not end demonstrations over Hanoi’s former nunciature.
Since then, the Committee has often described the prelate and some priests as “troublemakers” who incite “riots, falsely accusing the government, disrespecting the nation, breaking and ridiculing the law, and instigating followers to violate it”.
A similar campaign got underway right before the Vietnamese president visited the Pope in the Vatican.
However, unlike the past, in yesterday’s visit, Committee members praised the bishop and his congregation for their support to government initiatives.
Mgr Ngo Quang Kiet said he hoped that the visit was not merely diplomatic, but was instead a sign of “the growth of civilisation and justice,” which are “much needed for such a big city like Hanoi.”
“As Christians, spirituality allows people to be bound to one another not only superficially but also from the deepest part of their hearts,” the bishop said.
“We do so because we believe in the day when each one of us will eventually have to face God to be judged for what we've done in life. We are better off living our lives as straight arrows, steering away from deceptions. When you observe a Catholic’s outward expression, it is also a true reflection of what he or she is truly inside. You can rest assured that what you see is what you get. We have nothing to hide,” the prelate added.
On a different note, a few days before the visit, churches in Từ Châu, Cao Mật Bến, Mai Lĩnh, Đồng Du, Mỹ Thượng, Sơn Miêng, and Đông Lao (Hanoi Diocese) as well as Phượng Bãi andTình Lam (Hung Hoa Dioxcese) were broken in and had objects stolen, including ciboria, chalice cups, and audio equipments.
Many of the faithful who came to church last Sunday for Mass were in tears when they saw the tabernacles broken and the consecrated hosts thrown all over the ground.
In at least two other churches, thieves got away with some statues as well.