02/16/2015, 00.00
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Cardinal of Hanoi: Suffering has strengthened Church in Vietnam

by Dario Salvi
Msgr. Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon says his appointment to the College of Cardinals is a sign of "Pope Francis’ desire to introduce the distant Churches ". Through the difficulties Catholics have built a "stronger, more solid” faith. The cardinal invites to "proclaim" the Gospel with "growing force". He asks Catholics around the world to "pray for us."

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Archbishop of Hanoi's elevation to the College of Cardinals "manifests Pope Francis' desire to introduce the churches that are distant, but that are also equally part of the Church of Christ". But above all, it is also the sign of the Pope's "attention" to the realities "that have suffered much in the past, and it is thanks to this suffering that our faith has become stronger, more solid every day", says Card. Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon, Archbishop of Hanoi, speaking to AsiaNews about his appointment as cardinal - 20 new cardinals, including three from Asia - in the February 14 consistory. A day of celebration for Catholics in Vietnam, some of whom queued to pay tribute the new cardinal during the traditional greeting in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

Cardinal Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon was born April 1, 1938 in Da Lat. At 11 he entered the minor seminary of Saint Joseph in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), and then attended the Pontifical College of St. Pius X in Da Lat for philosophical and theological studies. Ordained a priest on 21 December 1967, he taught at the minor seminary of Da Lat, then became rector of the seminary. On 19 October 1991, John Paul II appointed him coadjutor bishop of the diocese and his episcopal ordination was on 3 December. From 2007 to 2013, he served as president of the Vietnamese bishops' conference. Promoted coadjutor Archbishop of Hanoi April 22, 2010, on May 13 he succeeded Msgr. Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet following his resignation from pastoral governance.

In recent years he has tried to mediate with the Communist authorities in Hanoi, often the protagonists of violence, abuse and even persecution of the local Catholic community. The cardinal at first was accused of being to acquiescent and conciliatory towards the authorities.  In reality, he has always defended the principle of religious freedom and intervened forcefully in disputes that involved the possession of the land and property of the Church, or the attacks on the diocese of Vinh.

"Vietnam is poor, it can be said that the country still lacks everything," says the new cardinal, who adds, however, that "one thing is certain, there is no lack of faith Vietnam, and when you have the faith you have all you need". "We are very happy to be part of the Church of Christ - continues the Archbishop of Hanoi - and we intend increasingly proclaim the Gospel, walk the path of the new evangelization and proclaim the Good News to others."

On the subject of freedom of religion and abuses against the Catholic community, the Cardinal said that "you need to be in Vietnam, to be on the ground, to really understand what it means". He adds that "if you are looking from outside, you cannot understand the situation" .He is asking Catholics around the world, however, to "pray for us" so "we can share our faith with a growing number of people."

There are an estimated 90 million people living in Vietnam and the large majority are Buddhists (48%). Catholics are about 7% of the population, with 20%  of the population declaring themselves to be atheists or people who do not profess a particular faith. The Archdiocese of Hanoi has a population of over 5.6 million people, with about 350 thousand Catholics.


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