Since January 2011, the non-resident papal representative has visited each of Vietnam’s 26 dioceses at least twice. The prelate highlighted the work of bishops, priests, religious and laity. He met with Communist authorities and paid attention to the poor and marginalised. He stressed the importance of seminars in the training of future priests.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Mgr Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident papal representative to Vietnam, has been involved in the Communist country of Southeast Asia for five and a half years.
In each pastoral visit, "I met the true faith" of Vietnamese Christians, he said, appreciating "the enthusiasm of the bishops" in their mission, and the diligent work of priests, nuns and religious "in the service of the local church. "
During this period, the prelate visited each of the 26 dioceses at least twice, from north to south, from the capital to areas inhabited by ethnic minorities.
On 18 June, the bishop, along with a group of members of Caritas Saigon, visited some poor families in difficulty in the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City, southern Vietnam. Here he met the elderly, the sick, abandoned children and youth, migrants living in extreme difficult conditions, guests of Our Lady of the Mutual Aid centre.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Saigon Caritas coordinator Tiến Nguyễn described the warmth and humanity of the meetings with the prelate. "He showed all his attention and spoke to everybody in a friendly and affectionate way ", especially with in the case of children whom he greeted "with a smile" following "the example of Jesus."
In January 2011 the Pope (now emeritus) Benedict XVI appointed Mgr Girelli apostolic nuncio to Singapore and apostolic delegate to Malaysia and Brunei, at the same time entrusting him with the task of non-resident representative in Vietnam.
This appointment was the first actual result of lengthy negotiations between the Holy See and Vietnam after the war and the break of diplomatic relations. In 2009 a mixed Holy See-Vietnam group was created to formalise negotiations.
In each pastoral visit to Vietnam’s dioceses, the prelate visited shrines and shelters, and met bishops, priests, nuns and religious, male and female congregations, Catholics and others.
But he always included a meeting with local authorities in the cities and provinces he visited to create a climate of dialogue and constructive debate, especially with regard to freedom of religion and worship.
When he meets priests, Mgr Girelli never fails to encourage them, noting that "priests and religious are the living sign of a Church, which is love, communion, and activism."
Hence for the prelate, it is important for them to "listen to their bishops" and participate actively in the life of the community from a pastoral, social and cultural point of view.
When he meets seminarians he calls on them to become "good leaders and pastors of the community," to learn how to "be in control of themselves," know "the right things and attitude." Hence the discipline they learnt in seminary is important. For him, this is "the only way to have" the energy needed in the future, during the mission in the service of God's people.
Thanking the members of the congregations, lay men and women, for their "life of prayer", which contribute to the development of the diocese and bear "strong and viable" witnesses of the faith, he noted that monks and nuns pray "for the pope and all the clergy" of Vietnam and the universal Church.
For priests and ordinary believers, the chance to meet and discuss with Mgr Girelli is usually a time of growth and personal enrichment.
For the Vietnamese clergy, he is "simple, happy, and friendly" and has been able to devote time and attention to each individual representative of local Christian communities, from those living in the big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to the people of the Mekong Delta and the tribal peoples and ethnic minorities – Kinh, H'mong, Khmer and Montagnards – whom he "loves and respects."