The Holy See has appointed the bishop of a northern diocese to lead Hanoi Archdiocese, which is in dispute with Vietnam's government over former church properties. Pope Francis on Nov. 17 named Bishop Joseph Vu Van Thien
of Hai Phong as archbishop of Hanoi. Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh
, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, said in a Nov. 18 announcement that Archbishop-elect Thien would succeed 80-year-old Cardinal Peter Nguyen Van Nhon
of Hanoi, whose resignation had been accepted by the pope. He was also named to serve Hai Phong Diocese as apostolic administrator. Archbishop Linh said the installation of Archbishop-elect Thien is scheduled for Dec. 18 at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi. "The appointment is a surprise and great honor to me. I would like all you to pray to God to give me necessary graces to fulfil my new mission," Archbishop-elect Thien, 58, told about 1,000 people who attended a special thanksgiving Mass for his appointment at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in Hai Phong City. Archbishop-elect Thien, a native of Hai Duong province, was ordained as a priest for Hai Phong Diocese in 1988. After he finished his studies at the Catholic Institute of Paris in 2000, he was named bishop of the diocese in 2002. He now serves as vice secretary-general of the bishops' conference. Hanoi Archdiocese, which received the first seeds of faith from foreign missionaries nearly 400 years ago, is dealing with a dispute about former church-run properties that have been confiscated by the government. On Nov. 15, Cardinal Nhon said local authorities have started construction on a former school
previously run by the archdiocese. The school, located on 6,737 square meters of land near the Archbishop's House, was confiscated by the government in the early 1970s. The cardinal said the local church has continued to ask the government to return its former properties around the Archbishop's House but its proposals have not been addressed. The government also has not granted the archbishop's request for new pieces of land on the outskirts of the capital for the past three years. Cardinal Nhon called on "local priests and Catholics to pray for government authorities to respect church properties and meet religious needs of the local church."