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“Shockwaves” in Hanoi: Ngo Wants to Go?

ICC Note:

Vietnam’s Catholic leader resigns–backstory

11/28/09 Vietnam (Illsussidario)-In a seismic development for the suffering Vietnamese church, the country’s most visible — and controversial — prelate has reportedly announced his intent to depart his post. Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi told his priests earlier this month that he had submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict, according to a report filed Monday on a Vietnamese church-news site.

Only 57 years of age, Ngo cited “health reasons” for the move — a rationale the locals quickly cast doubt upon: “Judging by his appearance, the prelate seems to look healthy and has been able to keep up with a tight schedule for such a large archdiocese. For most Vietnamese Catholics, the underlying cause of his resignation is obviously the persistent pressure from Vietnam[‘s] government after a series of church land disputes in recent years….

Rumors on the prelate’s “must go” plan has circulated among Catholics after the “Ad Limina” visit of Vietnamese bishops in June 2009.” Since their outbreak in early 2008, the archbishop had been the guiding force behind his faithful’s response to the government’s seizures of church property, which saw peaceful protests reportedly met with police investigations of participants, beatings of journalists covering the vigils and threats of expulsion from school for the demonstrators’ children.

Along the way, Ngo volunteered to be jailed for his flock if the government maintained its aggressive response, then — after a campaign against him in state-controlled media — found himself for a time under de facto house arrest as, according to one report, the authorities attempted “everything they can to intimidate [him], with the unconcealed objective of forcing his resignation or removal.”

Given the backdrop, the acceptance of Ngo’s resignation would appear to be further evidence of an emergent Holy See policy of sidelining outspoken prelates with an eye to winning the church an improved footing with Communist regimes. Along these lines, the ferociously candid leader of Catholic China’s Beijing-skeptic faction, Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, was succeeded by a significantly less political prelate earlier this year.

In his ad limina address to the Vietnamese bishops in June, Benedict 16 delivered the following, pointed message: “Lay Catholics for their part must show by their life, which is based on charity, honesty and love for the common good, that a good Catholic is also a good citizen. For this reason you must ensure that they have a sound formation, by promoting their life of faith and their cultural standard so that they may serve the Church and society effectively….”

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