In an open letter addressed to the priests, religious, seminarians, and lay faithful of the archdiocese, [Archbishop Joseph Ngô Quang Kiệt of Hanoi] emphasized his appreciation for the solidarity shown "not only by the faithful of the archdiocese of Hanoi, but by the entire world".Observed in Vietnam, China, Japan and Thailand -- among others -- the lunar new year begins this coming Friday. At yesterday's Angelus, the Pope expressed his good wishes to those celebrating it.
Since last December 18th, thousands of Vietnamese Catholic faithful had protested in daily prayer vigils before the former nunciature of Hanoi, to ask the government to return it to the Church. The building had been confiscated by the communist leadership in 1959. In these 40 days of protests, the archbishop continued, "We have lived a new Pentecost. We have been united and devoted ourselves to the prayers, despite challenges and hardship”.
In fact, "under the frigid rain and the biting wind, one cannot help but admire the fervent devotion and the profound attachment to the Church, the bond between pastor and flock, the friendship among the faithful, and the devoted prayers to the Lord. These are all a gift of grace from God".
But now, the archbishop and added, "our prayers have been heard. The restaurant [editor's note: which was to replace the nunciature] has been closed, and our community has taken down the tents that it had set up during the days of protest. The large cross [editor's note: carried by the faithful to the place of the protest and set beside a statue of the Virgin Mary] was carried back in procession to the Cathedral of St Joseph. All of this took place at the right time: I could no longer bear to watch you face this frigid winter".
PHOTO: AFP/Frank Zeller