Thảo Ly: First of all, I would like to take this great opportunity to say thanks to you so much for all you have done for the Church in Vietnam.
Máy yếu hay Internet chậm xin nhấn vào nút Play bên dưới đây
Right here, in Rome, the heart of the Catholic Church, our cries for sufferings and the ongoing persecution have been heard by the great help of AsiaNews.
There is a saying in Vietnamese “when you drink from the stream, remember the spring”. We would like to publicly thank you for your kindness and support to the Church in Vietnam. You may not know this, but Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet had once tried to look for you in Italy so he could personally thank you for helping his archdiocese during Hanoi Apostolic Nunciature crisis. Many priests also would like me to convey their words of gratitude and appreciation to you for being their eyes, ears, and voice of support throughout the years. It's fair to say, we, journalist, have learned a lot more about not only how to become effective, responsible news reporter but also the brotherly love and care that you and your colleagues at AsiaNews had showered on us, regardless of our differences in terms of culture and geopolitics.
These days, the Church in Vietnam still cannot see the light at the end of a long tunnel of persecution in a society marked by so many acts of injustice, deprivation, and exclusion. However, we do not feel we are alone. Thank you so much.
1. Thảo Ly: Father Bernardo, AsiaNews has become a point of reference for so many who want to have an in-depth understanding of Asia. As an Italian-born priest, what had drawn you to become interested in Asia's religious as well as socio-political issues?
Father Bernardo Cervellera: On one hand, when I was young - I was 17 years old - I wanted to do something for the society, for the world society. In that period there was the so-called 68’s revolution. Every young person wanted to change the world. This one was one aspect. The second aspect is the fact that when I rediscovered my faith after a period of… a practical atheism, this discovery was so strong that I decided to give my life to spread the Catholic faith all around the world; and then I became a mission priest in the PIME Institute, Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere - The PIME missions are mostly in Asia so I'm going to say this is why AsiaNews is started to follow the situation of Asia and the situation of missions in Asia. Now, we can also say that Asia has become such a big continent, an important continent, the most populous with more than half of the population in the world. Secondly, it has become a centre point for the economy in the world and it is a place where there are great religions and great people and cultures. So, it is evident that if you want to embrace the world, you have first of all to embrace Asia.
The Catholic Church in Asia is very interesting because usually the Catholic community, Christian communities are small but very lively minorities; and so, the growth of the Church in Asia is stunning because it's four, five percent per year increase, while in Europe there is a situation of standby and in Australia it is also going down. So, they are quite interesting for the Catholic Church in this sphere.
2. Thảo Ly: Before 2008, the year marked by Hanoi Apostolic Nunciature crisis, most Vietnamese reporters wrote their articles in Vietnamese and not in any other languages. Facing a potential of ruthless suppression, might be another Tiananmen Square crackdown, we began to see an urgent need to inform to the world what was happening in Vietnam.
You headed Agenzia Fides, and now you are the editor in chief of AsiaNews, what do you think about the power of internet and new technologies in the uphill battle to protect human rights and the freedom of worship?
Father Bernardo Cervellera: When I was the director of Fides, I started the internet edition of Fides and this is why, when I concluded my service in the Vatican, my superiors asked me to do the same for AsiaNews. For decades AsiaNews has been a paper magazine. Now, it is a daily news agency. Internet is a big and important instrument because allows you to communicate immediately news, facts, reflections all over the world, in different languages, in a way that before it was impossible. I remember when I went to Vietnam in the 90s, I would bring with me some books. It was difficult to bring religious books, I had to hide them. Now with internet everything can be sent, of course, in digital and digital style. But, at the same time, it is very important we have to be careful because in internet and with all these messages on the social media bubble, there can be also fake news: that is, news which are manipulated just for ideological purposes. So, this is why whenever we get a piece of news from some countries in Asia, we try to verify and ask our correspondent to verify the fact and thanks God we have correspondents all over Asia, so they can be witnesses and not only communicators, not only instrument of communications of news but also witnesses of the news, which is quite important.
3. Thảo Ly: Many young reporters in Vietnam would like your advice on how we can become effective journalists, how we can attract the international attentions?
Father Bernardo Cervellera: They can work for AsiaNews! We are a very good school, I think… Here in Italy we have young journalists who want to become professional journalists. What I always tell them is: first of all be curious, not to be happy or as I say, lazy, with the news we receive but always try to understand much more, try to verify what is said, try to find the reason behind all the news. So, curiosity is the very important gift for a journalist, for those who want to become journalists.
Secondly, I ask my junior journalists to be respectful of the people we’re talking about or we’re writing about. To be respectful means they are people who perhaps suffer or are doing something. We have to try to understand, first of all, not to judge, not to conclude that is good or not good, or to make jokes about them. Try to understand. Try to understand the human within them. And for a Catholic journalists, also try to understand what the Church can do for this person, for this situation because Catholic journalism and the Catholic missionary journalism should be in some way a prophetic voice to suggest what the Church, what the Catholics, what Christians could do for healing the situation, trying to give answers to problems, trying to support those who suffer violation of the human rights of freedom of religion and so on. This is part of the mission of the Church in that situation.
4. Thảo Ly: AsiaNews is very interesting to the Vietnamese Catholics and the concerned people, translated articles from AsiaNews have become a part of daily favourites of the Vietnamese readership. It should be a great favour if you could tell some more on the history of AsiaNews and your vision for its.
Father Bernardo Cervellera: What can I say? Asia News has come out, as I told you before, from the missionary desire of the PIME fathers to try to understand Asia, try to see some paths for the mission of the Church in Asia, and to try to build up a friendly, fraternal relationship between East and West. Normally East and West, let us say, Asia and Europe for example, or Europe and US or America, they try to fight for commercial reason for geopolitical reasons, sometimes also for “civilization” reasons or, better, manipulated civilization topics. But anyway, we try also to find a way for cooperation between these worlds and help them to understand each other, trying to find support for each other also from the economic point of view. This is the plan of AsiaNews.
Now, how much we fulfil this plan? This is the plan we would like to fulfil, I don't know when. Anyway, every day we try our best to follow these guidelines. What I see is a certain urgency of the mission in Asia, not only because people in Asia have a strong desire for a Christian faith, but also because of the problems lying in Asia. Now, there are urban and globalization problems, meaning humiliation of the people because of work, because of exploitation, because of very low salaries, because of environmental problems. All these things happen because the human being is not given a great value. Human value in Asia is not important for the general culture, for the economic visions is not important. The Catholic faith says that Jesus Christ has died and risen for each person. This is the foundation of the human dignity, so every person is important. And I think this is why the Catholic faith is growing in Asia. Asian people find in the Christian faith their source for their own dignity; and the source of their dignity becomes also a kind of creativity, a commitment to the society, to the well-being of the society, to the well-being of the families, to the well-being of the country where they are in.
We need big visions because if not, our daily work becomes too blind.
5. Thảo Ly: Last but not least, do you have any word for the Vietnamese Catholic leaders as well as lay people who have become Asia News' latest regular readers?
Father Bernardo Cervellera: I have always admired the Vietnamese Catholic Church. First of all because in a way she is different from other churches, like the one in China. The Catholic Church in Vietnam has remained united, always united, not divided. This is a very important gift and is a very important instrument for the mission because unity in the Church must be preserved, the unity of the Church is the mission. I have met many Vietnamese priests and nuns in my in my life and what is very, very interesting is the fact that they are quite committed towards the poor, toward the families, towards children, towards laborers. So it is very important also to support and increase this mission. I think that what is also important is to speak up about the situation of the country, about the situation of the freedom of religion and human rights, because this is the way through which truth can be found, can be produced into society. This fact is important. Although sometimes, even in the Church institutions, it seems that it is better to have a politically correct ways to say things that do not offend anybody than to be silent and so on. Of course, when it is impossible to speak up then we have to keep silent, but we can help other to speak on behalf of us and this is for example the value of AsiaNews. At times, we receive news and appeal from churches that cannot speak on their own because it is forbidden, because of some reason, because of many things. But Asia News raise their situations so people can know, even if their voices are silences and they cannot say one word.
Thảo Ly: Thanks Father Bernardo for granting me this interview and again, thanks a zillion for all you have done for the Church in Vietnam.