10/06/2009, 00.00
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Vietnamese bishops meet, archbishop of Hanoi absent

by Nguyen Vu
Vilified by the government for his defence of religious freedom, the bishop is too ill to participate. Prelates will discuss next year’s jubilee and a possible papal visit. They will also talk about seminary training, aid to victims of typhoon Ketsana and the beatification of François Pallu and Pierre Lambert de la Motte.
Xuan Loc (AsiaNews) – The annual conference of the Viet Nam Bishops' Council opened in Xuan Loc Diocese yesterday until Saturday. Next year’s Jubilee and seminary training are the main topics. The archbishop of Hanoi, who was vilified in a vicious campaign by the government, was absent for health reasons.

The president of the Council, Mgr Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, opened the proceedings stressing the importance of unity between bishops and the Pope, which was reinforced by last June’s ad limina visit to Rome.

Almost all bishops from Vietnam’s 26 dioceses were present. Mgr Emmanuel Le Phuong Thuan, from Can Tho and very old, and Mgr Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, from Hanoi could not attend.

In the past year, Bishop Ngo has been the victim of a campaign of denigration on TV and print media, placed under the surveillance of spy cameras and police agents because of his defence of religious freedom in his diocese, and his demand for the restitution of some Church properties seized by the government, including the former nunciature compound in Hanoi and real estate belonging to Thai Ha parish.

A message from Bishop Ngo Quang Kiet was read at the start of the Council. In it, the prelate apologised for his absence due to “fatigue”. Expressing his “best wishes” and “good results” to the chairman of the assembly, he said that he devote daily prayers to the conference.

At the height of the controversy between him and the government, many of his colleagues from both the north and south, visited him as well as spoke and wrote in his favour.

The assembly of bishops will first discuss the jubilee of the Catholic Church of Vietnam next year to mark 300 years since the arrival of Christianity in the country and 50 years since the establishment of its hierarchy. The jubilee itself is scheduled to start on 24 November 2009, solemnity of the country’s Martyrs, and last till Epiphany, 6 January 2011. The event has raised hopes among Vietnamese Catholics that the Pope might visit the country during this period.

The Council is also set to focus on the training of candidates to the priesthood and the ratio of education.

In addition to asking the population to help the victims of typhoon Ketsana, the bishops want to set in motion the process of beatification of the evangelisers of Vietnam, Mgrs François Pallu and Pierre Lambert de la Motte.

Members of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, both missionaries were among the first to free missionary activity from any colonial control.

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