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Hanoi's Catholics shaken by appointment of coadjutor

Catholic World News - April 26, 2010

Although Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi has said that the appointment of a coadjutor archbishop is "great news," and insisted that the Vatican fully supports his pastoral ministry, many Vietnamese Catholics remain convinced that the Archbishop Kiet is being eased out because of pressure from the nation's Communist government.

Archbishop Kiet himself has welcomed the appointment of Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon as his coadjutor, explaining that he needs assistance because of his frail health. The appointment of a coadjutor to assist an elderly or inform bishop would ordinarily be unremarkable. But in this case the move has raised eyebrows because the coadjutor is much older (72) than the man he is to assist (57), and because Archbishop Kiet has been under intense pressure from the Hanoi government.

Since 2007, Vietnamese officials have been calling for the replacement of Archbishop Kiet, charging that the prelate has inflamed public opinion against the government. The conflict has arisen over disputes about parish properties that have been confiscated by the government.

Catholic activists in Hanoi fear that the Vatican has acceded to the government's demands, and the arrival of a coadjutor archbishop will ease the way for the retirement of Archbishop Kiet. Some activists speculate that a change in leadership of the Hanoi archdiocese might be a precondition for further movement toward the renewal of diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Vietnam: a goal that the Holy See has pursued through informal talks for years.

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