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Vatican visitors inspire hopes for papal visit, diplomatic ties

Updated: February 25, 2009 10:21 AM GMT
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Thousands of Catholics from two northern dioceses recently welcomed a Vatican delegation, with some expressing hope for a papal visit in the future.

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Monsignor Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states and Monsignor Barnabas Nguyen Van Phuong, concelebrating Mass on Feb. 21 at the cathedral in Nam Dinh.
During their annual working visit to Vietnam Feb 15-22, the three-member delegation led by Monsignor Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, met clergy, Religious and lay Catholics in the northern dioceses of Bui Chu and Thai Binh. Accompanying him were Monsignors Francis Cao Minh Dung and Barnabas Nguyen Van Phuong, both Vietnamese-born. On Feb. 21, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Ha Noi and Bishop Cosme Hoang Van Dat of Bac Ninh, together with 20,000 other Catholics waved colorful flags as they welcomed the visitors at St. Dominic Cathedral in Nam Dinh province. "Today we are happy to welcome you here. Your presence is like the pope´s presence among us," Salesian Bishop Joseph Hoang Van Tiem of Bui Chu told the delegates. "We are always close to the Church and the pope," Bishop Tiem, 71, said, adding that in the past Vietnamese Catholics´ ancestors had expressed their loyalty to God and the Church by enduring religious persecution and dying for their faith.
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The Vatican delegation with Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh (pointing) at the bishop’s residence.
The prelate said the Church here has constructed many church buildings to meet Catholics´ needs. His diocese has 387,000 Catholics served by two bishops, 159 priests, four deacons, 42 seminarians and 600 Religious, he added. Bishop Tiem noted the local Church also plans to open a new seminary to provide priestly formation for seminarians from the dioceses of Bac Ninh, Bui Chu, Hai Phong and Thai Binh. The four-story building built last December is located in the compound of the bishop´s residence, he added. "We pray with the hope that the pope will visit us in the future," Bishop Tiem stated. Monsignor Parolin said during the Mass that he was moved to see thousands of people at the ceremony although it was cold and raining. "We give you love and blessing from the pope and will bring your wishes to him," he said. He also urged them to pray for the pope to visit their country. The previous day, Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Sang of neighboring Thai Binh diocese together with 10,000 other Catholics welcomed the Vatican visitors at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Thai Binh city. Some children staged cultural performances.
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Children in white dresses give a cultural performance to welcome the visiting Vatican delegation on Feb. 20 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Thai Binh city.
The delegates and local priests also concelebrated a special Mass attended by 15,000 people at the Dong Phu Martyrs Shrine church, 40 kilometers away. Hundreds of people in traditional costumes played clarinets and drums. The delegation also visited the bishop´s residence, local Dominican nuns and the Sacred Heart Seminary. The seminary was reopened last September after being closed by the government for many years. Catholics said they were happy to receive the delegates. "This is a visible sign of hope for the local Church," said Joseph Le Tran Linh Vuc, 35, a sculptor from Thai Binh diocese. Joseph Tran Van Le, 45, said he prays for the Vatican and Vietnamese government to establish diplomatic ties soon so that the local Church will enjoy more freedom. During their visit, the Vatican delegation met with officials from the foreign affairs ministry on the issue. The visitors also concelebrated Mass at the cathedral in Ha Noi where they visited two Religious congregations and the St. Joseph Major Seminary. END

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