Catholic World News News Feature

US bishops in solidarity visit to Hanoi archdiocese January 22, 0200

A group of US Catholic bishops has begun a visit to the Hanoi archdiocese, showing solidarity with the Vietnamese Catholic Church at a time when that country's government has shown increasing hostility toward the faith.

Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco leads the American delegation, which includes three other bishops from California dioceses (Bishops Todd Brown of Orange, Dan Walsh of Santa Rosa, and Ignatisu Chung Wang, a San Francisco auxiliary). The American prelates were among the first visitors to call on Hanoi's Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet after the Vietnamese Church leader was consigned to virtual house arrest in the wake of Church-state clashes in Hanoi. The American bishops and their traveling companions concelebrated Mass with Archbishop Ngo and hundreds of Vietnamese priests in St. Joseph Cathedral on Wednesday morning, January 21.

The Church in Vietnam has struggled through a difficult year, clashing with the Communist regime repeatedly over the ownership of properties that were seized by the government from Church ownership. 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. Earlier this month several Catholic activists were found guilty of destroying state property during a protest at the Redemptorist monastery; they have appealed the conviction.

Last October, government officials denounced Archbishop Ngo for his failure to denounce the Catholic demonstrators, and threatened legal action against the prelate. The archbishop's residence has frequently been surrounding by mobs of government supporters, and in response to threats the archbishop has severely curtailed his public activities, generally remaining at home.