Fired Up For... the Faith
Amid the continuing persecution of church officials and layfolk alike in one of the key cradles of Stateside Catholicism's renewal, no fewer than 10,000 of the faithful showed yesterday for the ordination of the first Jesuit bishop the nation has known since Portuguese missionaries from the Society first set foot there four centuries ago.
A former spiritual director at Hanoi's seminary -- and chaplain to leprosy patients prior to that -- Bishop Cosme Hoang took the reins of the 130,000-member Bac Ninh diocese in an open-air liturgy led by 21 prelates including Hanoi's 89 year-old Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung and his embattled successor, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Kwang Niet...
[Hoang] was ordained priest of Society of Jesus on June 5, 1976. He had served as the priest in charge of postulants at Thu Duc monastery until the arrest of the Superior by the Communist government. Since then, he had taken care the monastery during the next ten years (1978-1988)....
On Aug. 4, 2008, he was appointed bishop of Bac Ninh, a suffragan diocese of Hanoi archdiocese, 30 kilometers northeast of Ha Noi, with an area of 24,600 square km. The diocese has 43 priests, 268 nuns, 39 seminarians, and 127,734 faithful among a population of 7,181,000 people. There are 75 parishes and any parishes have no permanent priests and to maintain any kind of regular services, rely on part-timers.No permanent priests... a culture not merely apathetic, but overtly hostile... and still able to draw 10,000 people.
The new ordained bishop went to Thai Ha [church] on Sep. 8 to express solidarity with Redemptorists. After arriving with 39 priests and hundreds of faithful, he told the protestors: "I have prayed for you from afar, and today I want to be with you, in the place where I went to Mass as a child, to express my solidarity with you."
He has since been one of the targets of state media’s campaign of vilification up to the point that many had concerned that his installation Mass could not be conducted as scheduled.
On a weekday.
In an expression of solidarity with the Vietnamese church, last week the US hierarchy's lead foreign-affairs hand, Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando, sent a letter to the head of the nation's episcopal conference, Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon of Da Lat.