Archbishop of Hanoi has dismissed concerns over the preparations for the Holy Jubilee opening ceremony scheduled to be taken place in three weeks time, assuring that all are well underway and going well.

“There have been enormous obstacles. The local government did not understand how Holy Jubilee ceremonies are to be taken place,” said Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi during an interview published on the Vietnamese Episcopate’s website on Nov. 3.

Moreover, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands Catholics will attend the opening ceremony. “Such a huge crowd coming from multiple dioceses will make coordination effort a real challenge,” the prelate added.

“After all”, he continued, “So Kien is only a small town with shortcomings in logistic support.”

"Nonetheless, everything is all well underway now,” added the prelate attributing the turnaround for generous efforts of northern dioceses and the archdiocese of Hanoi in particular.

The grand opening ceremony is scheduled to take place at So Kien (formerly known as Ke So) on the evening of Nov. 23, the Vigil of the Feast of the Vietnamese martyrs Andrew Dung Lac and 116 companions, beatified by John Paul II in 1988. It is estimated that 30 Cardinals and Bishops, 4000 priests and at least 100,000 faithful will attend the ceremony which is believed to be the largest gathering of Catholics in North Vietnam in recent history.

“The diocese of Hai Phong has designed a giant torch for the event. There will be a large musical troupe with 200 trumpeters from Bui Chu Diocese, and 200 drummers from Thai Binh Diocese; and a large choir of 750 singers from dioceses of Thanh Hoa, Hung Hoa, and Lang Son,” the prelate continued adding that a large number of young volunteers to assist during the ceremony had registered with the Jubilee Organizing Committee in which 300 of these come from remote dioceses of Vinh and Phat Diem.

The decision to select So Kien as the site to host the opening ceremony has caused some concerns. “However, historically, it was the first site the Church in Vietnam could build a large and durable complex of constructions. The harmonic architecture of So Kien on an area of 4 hectares consists of a Cathedral, the Vicariate Office of Tay Dang Ngoai and a Major Seminary. Everything is still intact with the exception of the Major Seminary,” Monsignor Joseph Ngo explained.

The Ly Doan Major Seminary has been downgraded severely due to the failure of Catholics to overcome bureaucratic challenges in obtaining renovation permission.

Also, “Right in So Kien, we are able to place in secure custody many relics of martyrs and their belongings,” the prelate emphasized.

Moreover, “Geographically speaking, So Kien is almost equidistant from Hanoi to the cities of Ninh Binh, Nam Dinh, Thai Binh. It’s very convenient for faithful from these dioceses to attend the ceremony,” said Archbishop Joseph Ngo.

All dioceses in Vietnam will observe a Novena from Nov. 15- 23 in preparation for the Holy Year celebrating 350 years since the establishment of Vietnam’s first two apostolic vicariates and 50 years since the hierarchy was put in place. On Sept. 9, 1659, Pope Alexander VII established the vicariates of Dang Ngoai (Tonkin) and Dang Trong (Cochinchine) with Bishops Francois Pallu and Lambert de la Motte, both from France, appointed first prelates. On Nov. 24, 1960, Blessed Pope John XXIII established the Catholic hierarchy in Vietnam, elevating Ha Noi, Hue and Saigon to archdioceses.

After the grand opening ceremony at So Kien, each diocese will have a diocesan opening ceremony on Nov. 28. The Holy Jubilee will run through Jan. 6, 2011 with the Closing Ceremony on the Feast of the Epiphany at La Vang National Sacred Marian Centre.