Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Catholics hope for religious freedom
There are signs of improving relations between the Vatican and the government
- ucanews.com reporters, Ho Chi Minh City
- January 4, 2012
More than anything else, the presence of papal nuncio Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli has led many Catholics in the country to hope for greater religious freedom in the future.
Pope Benedict XVI named the archbishop as nuncio on January 13 â€“ the first Vatican representative to visit the country since Apostolic Delegate Archbishop Henri Lemaitre was forced to leave in 1975.
Archbishop Girelli, who is based in Singapore, made five pastoral visits to Vietnamâ€™s 26 dioceses between April and December last year. At each location, the nuncio was warmly welcomed by thousands of Catholics and briefed about Church activities.
The nuncioâ€™s visits were preceded in early January by that of Cardinal Ivan Dias, then prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who attended the closing ceremony of the Jubilee Year 2010 at the Shrine of Our Lady of La Vang on January 5 last year.
â€śI believe that religious freedom will be ensured and local religious organizations and people, regardless of their faiths, will have favorable conditions to publicly express and practice their faiths,â€ť the cardinal said during an address to about 100,000.
The local Church has also seen some progress in reacquiring previously seized land from the government.
Plans have moved forward for the construction of a new basilica and other facilities to serve pilgrims at the La Vang shrine following the governmentâ€™s return of some 130,000 sq m of land confiscated in 1975.
The Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of Vietnam also launched the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace in May.
Dominican Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, who heads the commission, said it aims to â€śbuild a society based on human values, dignity and vocations of people in the country.â€ť
Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City has said that relations between the local Church and the government have seen some progress, as witnessed by the establishment of new Church commissions, a small increase in pastoral activities and the lifting of requirements for government permission for some religious activities.
He added, however, that challenges remain as local religious organizations continue to be banned from running educational centers and hospitals. Cardinal Man petitioned the government in May to â€śamend its legal system and return equality to local religions.â€ť
The authors, who have asked not to be named over concerns for their safety, are journalists based in Ho Chi Minh City