03/05/2018, 09.04
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Bishops of Vietnam on ad limina visit to Pope Francis

by J.B. An Dang

Two days ago they celebrated a Mass at the altar of the Chair. Msgr Joseph Nguyễn Chí Linh, president of the CBCV, expresses the joy of showing the deep bonds of fidelity and love of the Vietnamese Catholics for the Church and the Pope. The percentage of Catholics in the population of over 96 million Vietnamese has fallen to 6.6%, from 10% of the first decades of the twentieth century. The faithful express fears over the repercussions in Vietnam of an agreement between the Holy See and the Chinese government.

 Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The 32 bishops of the Vietnamese Episcopal Conference (CBCV) meet Pope Francis today. It is their first "ad limina apostolorum visit" since 2009, when the prelates came to the Vatican to honor the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul and to meet Pope Benedict XVI.

Two days ago, the bishops celebrated mass at the altar of the Cathedra, inside the basilica. Presiding over the function, Msgr. Joseph Nguyễn Chí Linh, archbishop of Huế and president of the Cbcv expressed the joy of the prelates to be in Rome to show the deep bonds of fidelity and love that the faithful in Vietnam feel for the Church and for the Pope. He then invited those present to pray intensely for the universal Church and in particular for the Church in Vietnam.

In his homily on the parable of the prodigal son, Msgr. Joseph Nguyễn Năng, CBC vice-president, exhorted the faithful to reconciliation with God as a prerequisite for communion in the Church which, in turn, gives impetus to missionary zeal. "At the tomb of St. Peter, inspired by the parable of today's Gospel, the command to proclaim the Good News all over the world (ad gentes) resounds intensely through the Church in Vietnam," said the bishop of Phát Diệm.

"Challenges and difficulties are always present on the path of the mission, every age has its problems", continued Msgr. Joseph Nguyễn Năng, stressing that "the main obstacles are not the external problems, but rather the interior attitude of the disciples of Christ who choose to retreat within the walls of the Church". The percentage of Catholics in the population of over 96 million Vietnamese has fallen to 6.6%, from 10% of the first decades of the twentieth century. The Church in Vietnam has 26 dioceses, including three archdioceses, with 2228 parishes and 2668 priests.

Since the mid-1980s, Vietnam has made the transition from a highly centralized economy to a market-oriented economy, which has led to large foreign investments in the country. However, investors seem to focus mainly on large cities, which meet their needs. Therefore, in the last decade, the Church has expressed concern about the widespread phenomenon of internal youth migration. Among the crucial problems afflicting the Church is the need for adequate pastoral care for young internal migrants, who are attracted to the metropolis to find work or continue their studies. They face the great risk of being uprooted from their local traditions and faith, of not being able to seek ethical advice and practical guidance.

Nowadays, with vivid memories of persecution that is constantly present here and there in the country, Catholics are very concerned by rumors of an imminent agreement between the Vatican and Beijing, which could lead to more political control over the hierarchy of the neighbouring Church of China. As the Vietnamese government increasingly depends on the Chinese regime, as a domino effect, it could follow the example of its Chinese counterpart and demand more checks on the appointment of bishops in Vietnam, especially if its "master" exerted pressure to force it to do the same.

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