05/14/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Archbishop Kiet: They did not want me to retire, I had to ask the Pope myself

by J.B. An Dang
Letter from the former archbishop of Hanoi that reveals how the Vatican and bishops' conference opposed his request to withdraw. Growing fear among Catholics of government manipulations to create divisions and instil suspicions towards some bishops.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Only by writing directly to the Pope, who understood his situation, did Mgr. Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet manage to have his resignation accepted.  A resignation that both the Vatican and bishops conference had consistently refused.  This much has been revealed by the former archbishop of Hanoi himself, in his farewell letter addressed to priests, religious and faithful of what had been his diocese of seven years.

"Whenever I mentioned my intention to resign - he writes - the Roman Congregations were strongly opposed." Eventually Mgr. Kiet said he personally wrote to Benedict XVI "who thoroughly understood my situation and with his Paternal love accepted my request to retire."

Mgr. Kiet’s letter comes at a time when Catholics in Hanoi and throughout Vietnam fear they are facing a government tactic designed to undermine confidence in the Holy See and the Bishops' Conference. Warned in advance (as per their request) by the Vatican of the appointment of new bishops in Hanoi and Vinh, the authorities deliberately leaked the news,  to try to convince Catholics that Rome was following a "road map" drawn up by Vietnam to remove "stubborn" bishops who have a long history of determined resistance and opposition to any attempts to restrict religious freedom or to seize Church property.

The tactic has painted some Vietnamese bishops as "collaborators" of the state. The same new archbishop of Hanoi, Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, who is chairman of the Episcopal Conference, has been portrayed as having cooperated with the government to push Mgr. Kiet to resign.

The operation appears to have been partly successful. On May 7, at the ceremonial installation of Mgr. Van Nhon in Hanoi, among the thousands of faithful who welcomed him, there were also protesting outside the church,. And yesterday the new archbishop was unable to celebrate Mass for the Ascension because of the presence of protesters outside the Cathedral. But no one could confirm that the protesters were all Catholics.

This latest event explains the growing concern of Catholics that now the authorities are working on a project to crack the unity of believers and cause disorder in the archdiocese.

A concern that is shared by Mgr. Kiet, who in his letter asks priests and faithful to "do your best to maintain unity and love among yourselves. It 's the most precious treasure of our archdiocese. Love Mgr. Peter - is his last request - with the love that you always had for me. "

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