U.S. Bishops visit archdiocese of Hanoi
J.B. An Dang1/22/2009

A group of U.S. Bishops has come to visit the archdiocese of Hanoi to show their support and solidarity with Vietnamese bishops, priests and laity in the capital city, those who have suffered injustice and a series of crackdowns from the atheist government.

Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung, Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet
U.S. Bishops and Vietnamese priests
Bishop Todd Brown of Orange County
Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco, Bishop Ignatius Chung Wang, Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, Bishop Todd Brown of Orange County, Bishop Dan Walsh of Santa Rosa, Fr. Jerry McCormick of the Diocese of Monterey, and some faithful from California, USA were among the first foreign visitors to call on Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet to offer brotherly support after the Catholic leader had suffered a long period of virtual house arrest and public humiliation by state-controlled media.

The Church in Vietnam has been struggling to survive in rough water especially during the last year, which was filled with tough challenge and uncertainty as a result of series of clashing with the Communist regime over the ownership of properties that were seized by the government throughout the years. The most dramatic conflicts have occurred in Hanoi, where lay Catholic activists have staged public protests demanding the return of a building that once housed the offices of the apostolic nuncio in Vietnam, and a piece of property that belonged to a Redemptorist monastery. Last December, eight Catholic activists were tried for charges of destroying state property during a protest at the Redemptorist monastery. The case resulted in guilty verdict that followed by stayed sentences for all defendants, regardless of evidence overwhelmingly supporting the innocence of the victims- turned -defendants.

Earlier, in September of last year, government officials attacked Archbishop Ngo for his failure to denounce the Catholic demonstrators, and threatened legal action against the prelate. The archbishop's residence has frequently been surrounded by mobs of government supporters and put on 24 hour surveillance in addition to numerous death threats against the archbishop which had severely curtailed his public activities to a minimal. He has virtually become a prisoner in his own home.

U.S. Bishops and their companions concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Joseph Ngo and hundreds of Vietnamese priests in St. Joseph Cathedral on Wednesday morning.

In his sermon, Bishop Todd Brown, noted that the liturgical calendar for Wednesday honored St.Agnes, a Roman young woman who was only thirteen years old when she received martyrdom for her Faith. Her love for the Lord was very great and she hated sins even more than death! Agnes was promised with wonderful gifts if she would only deny God, but she refused and bowed her head for the death-stroke of the sword.

"Each year on this day young lambs are brought to the Roman Church named in her honor," Bishop Todd continued. "The lambs are blessed and then cared for until they are sheared and their wool woven into the pallia given to the new archbishops named that year. That is the history of the pallium Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet is wearing today."

The sermon was viewed by many as an encouragement to the attitude of the archbishop not to compromise with injustice and immorality even at the cost of grave sufferings.

Catholics in Hanoi had found great comfort with Bishop Todd's conclusion: "Please be assured of our prayers and support."

The Diocese of Orange California and the Archdiocese of Hanoi had established “sister diocese" relationship last August. Under the partnership, the American diocese for the first time would sponsor four seminarians from Vietnam in their training to become priests. The diocese would also send priests to Hanoi to teach English and at seminaries.

After the Diocese of Orange established its partnership with Hanoi, other dioceses in the United States followed. The Diocese of Los Angeles and the Archdiocese of Saigon, for instance, are now sister dioceses.

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