New priestly ordinations in Hanoi

Hanoi (AsiaNews/EDA) – Mgr Jospeh Ngo Ngô Quang Kiêt, archbishop of Hanoi, ordained two deacons, Nguyên Van Thât (46 years) and Joseph Nguyên Van Phuong (34 years) to the priesthood on 11 June. The ceremony took place in the Redemptorist parish church in the Vietnamese capital.

According to some sources, these ordinations went ahead without the go-ahead of the civil authorities. Despite the registration undertaken by the archbishop beforehand – in line with Article 22, Paragraph 4 of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion – government representatives opposed the ceremony, refusing their approval and threatening the two youths who were ordained to the priesthood.

Notwithstanding the refusal and applying the right to go ahead with this activity – granted by the Ordinance in Article 22, paragraphs 1 and 2 – Mgr Kiêt decided to celebrate the ordinations anyway. Informed of this decision by the council of Hanoi, the authorities threatened to "suspend" the two new priests from their functions, not to recognize their priesthood and gave them to understand their future priestly activities would meet with all kinds of obstacles and difficulties.

The archbishop quickly informed the two future priests who accepted all the unpleasant consequences which may result from their ordination, conferred without government approval.

The prelate justified his decision to ordain the two youths based on the first two paragraphs of Article 22 of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion, which states: "The ordination, attribution of a title, appointment, election, elevation to a dignity in a religion, must take place in conformity with the Charter, as per the regulations of the religious organization, and they must take into account conditions prescribed in paragraph 2 of the same article. In the case that there is some connection with a foreign country, it would be necessary to get preemptive approval from the central organ of the state pertaining to religious matters; people benefiting from the ordination, attribution of a title, appointment, election, elevation to a dignity, must fit the following conditions to be recognized by the State: a) be a Vietnamese citizen of good morality b) give proof of spirit of union, being in good relations with one's own people; c) rigorously obey the law; the religious organization is charged with registering with the authorities those people benefiting from ordination, attribution of a title, appointment, election, elevation to a dignity."

The archbishop held that the prescriptions and conditions stipulated had been objectively respected. Conformity of the ordination with the prescriptions of canonical right, indicated in paragraph 1, had been manifestly assured. Moreover, according to the archbishop's conclusion, the candidates to the priesthood fulfilled all three requisites outlined in Article 2 of the Ordinance. Finally, the registration stipulated in the law had been already carried out by the Archbishop of Hanoi. 

The government reaction to this strict application of the recent Ordinance on Belief and Religion will probably come out later. But already it may be seen that the stand taken by the Archbishop of Hanoi is one of great importance, not only as regards freedom of worship but also for the launching of various religious congregations, so far poorly represented, in northern Vietnam. The young priests ordained in Hanoi belong to the Redemptorist Congregation which is present in the northern diocese. The recruitment of secular clergy provokes less unease after the biennial quota conceded by the government to the inter-diocesan seminary of Hanoi rose from 60 to 90 students in September 2004.