Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Thousands of Catholics took part yesterday morning at the installation ceremony of the new coadjutor bishop of Hanoi, Mgr. Peter Nguyen Van Nhon in the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Bishop Van Nhon, 72, is assistant to Mgr. Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 58, ill for many years. The ceremony took place in a calm atmosphere, despite fears of protests.
Many Catholics in Hanoi are concerned that the Vatican has gone along with government demands [to remove the archbishop] and hasten the arrival of assistant on the removal of Msgr. Kiet. Some think that the change of leadership in the diocese of Hanoi is a condition placed by the government after the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, an aim that the Vatican has pursued for years through informal dialogues.
Yesterday morning, hundreds of people remained outside the cathedral with placards and banners to express their appreciation for Mgr. Ngo Quang Kiet, asking that he not be removed from the diocese (see photo). Inside the cathedral, in his speech, Archbishop Kiet acknowledged the fears of the faithful concerning the appointment of Mgr. Van Nhon. "In the past - he said - the Church of the North has suffered greatly. The Archdiocese of Hanoi has lived miserable time. From the psychological point of view, having suffered so much in our lives, it is natural and even necessary to be alert. "
But he also assured the faithful that Mgr. Peter Nguyen Van Nhon will love and take care of the diocese and of his flock: "your happiness - said Mgr. Kiet - will be his joy, your sadness will be his bitterness, and your aspirations will be his wishes. He will live and die with you".
Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, vice President of the Vietnamese Episcopal conference, congratulated Mgr. Kiet for receiving Mgr. Van Nhon as coadjutor.
He also admitted that the appointment has inflamed disputes between Vietnamese Catholics. "Some pessimists - he explained - have defined it a big mistake of the Vatican, a sign of division among the bishops and bishops' conference, a sign of manipulation and as a sad chapter in the history of the Church of Vietnam and Hanoi in particular" . The prelate stressed, however, some positive signs. First, that "the bishops of the nation had the opportunity to listen to the faithful from various situations of life" and second, "despite the various differences of opinion on the appointment, they show a common point, which is the love of all faithful of the Church”.
He also has invited Catholics to pray for the Church in Vietnam.