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Vietnamese bishops face criticism from loyal Catholic activists

October 06, 2010

The Catholic bishops of Vietnam discussed the criticism they have encountered among lay Catholics during a meeting of the episcopal conference this week. Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, the vice President of the episcopal conference, said that the public criticism is “an unprecedented phenomenon in the history of the Church in Vietnam.”

Catholic activists in Vietnam have questioned the bishops for their unwillingness to adopt a confrontational attitude toward the nation’s government, particularly on issues such as abortion and on the government’s seizure of property from the Church. The criticism escalated in April of this year, when Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet resigned from his post as Archbishop of Hanoi. Lay Catholics feared that the archbishop was removed at the demand of the Vietnamese government. (Although his resignation was attributed to health reasons, he has shown no sign of serious medical problems.)

Faced with steady opposition from the Communist government, the Catholic Church has seen a slower rate of growth in membership in recent years. The Vatican has been negotiating quietly with the government, to end restrictions on Church activities and move toward resumption of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Holy See.


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