03/26/2013, 00.00
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Cardinal of Saigon: Pope Francis pays "special attention" to the Vietnamese Church

by J.B. Vu
Card. Jean Baptist Phạm Minh Mẫn recounts the work of the conclave and two meetings with the new pontiff. The gesture of "mutual" kiss of each other’s ring, a sign that he "is aware of the events" and the difficulties experienced by the local Church. The cardinal launches a call to mission for all Vietnamese Catholics.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - "Both times, when I kissed the Pope's ring he reciprocated the gesture of kissing my ring. He is probably aware of the events of Vietnam. And, in doing so, he sought to express his appreciation for the Church in Vietnam. A Church that had the courage to stay alive and to witness to the faith, even in moments of profound difficulty. " So says Card. Jean   Baptist Phạm Minh Mẫn, archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, one of the 115 cardinals electors who participated in the recent conclave, commenting on his two meetings at the Vatican with Pope Francis of whom he appreciates his "humility, simplicity, modesty and wealth of grace: a pope really close to all of us. "

On his return to Vietnam, the Cardinal of Saigon is leading celebrations for Holy Week. The faithful of all parishes have organized celebrations and prayers with special intentions for Pope Francis and the local Church. However, thoughts turn to the new pontiff and the support of the people of God for his mission.

"In this era of globalization - recalled Card. Phạm Minh Mẫn - the Pope is not Italian or European. He is an evident expression of the characteristics that make up the mission of St. Peter." That is why it is not a surprise that the College of Cardinals may have elected a "Pope native of the Americas, Asia or Africa."

For the faithful the warm embrace between the Argentine Pope and Vietnamese Cardinal, both expressions of a young missionary church, was an exciting and significant moment. And the choice that emerged in the conclave, said the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, shows that "we have not been influenced by the voices of the public or news from the outside world." "The atmosphere was joyful and all the cardinals were happy with the speed" of the work. "We have seen - he adds - a simple Pope in harmony with all."

In his personal meeting with the Pope, during two short sessions that followed the election of the former archbishop of Buenos Aires to the Petrine ministry, there was an exchange of greetings, the promise of "obedience" by the Cardinal of Saigon and the promise of the "Prayers of the Vietnamese." "The Pope replied - said Card. Phạm Minh Mẫn - that he will pray for Vietnam, the Vietnamese Church. Finally, the Holy Father kissed my hand." A sign, according to the cardinal, that testifies to the Pope's closeness and  knowledge of the Vietnamese Church and "his concern for the situation of the Church in Vietnam."

Finally a thought for the three popes which the Cardinal of Saigon has met his in service to the Church in Vietnam, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. A special memory is linked to Blessed Pope John Paul II and the strength with which he "spread the love of Christ to all" in spite of the suffering and persecution in the darkest years. "John Paul II also asked me - said the cardinal - not only to accept aid from European nations, but, as far as possible, to be active in the common mission of evangelization. Nowadays many foreign orders have come to Vietnam to welcome young vocations, to be put at the service of other countries ... It is nice to see Vietnamese Catholics not only in the service of the local church, but making themselves available to serve churches in a foreign lands. "


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