Vietnam Govt allows bishop's appointment

Vietnam's Communist Government has approved the appointment by Benedict XVI of a new bishop for the Da Nang diocese, marking further progress in the improvement of ties between Vietnam and the Holy See.

Catholic World News reports that with about 6 million Catholics - forming seven per cent of the population - Vietnam has the second-largest Catholic population in southeast Asia, trailing only the Philippines.

But the Hanoi government does not have diplomatic relations with Rome, and for years the Communist regime has stalled the appointment of new bishops to replace the aging hierarchy and limited the number of men allowed to entry seminary training.

However, relations have improved in recent months, after an exchange of visits between officials from Rome and Hanoi. Last November, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe ordained 57 new priests in Hanoi.

The Vatican announced at the weekend that Fr Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri had been appointed by the Pontiff to the Da Nang diocese. He replaced Bishop Paul Nguyen Binh Tinh, who has reached retirement age.

News of the new appointment in Vietnam came just as officials in China were preparing for the installation of a new government-approved bishop, in the latest of a series of challenges to Vatican authority.

Bishop Zhan Silu, who had been recognised by the government (but not the Holy See) as an auxiliary bishop of Mingdong, was named to head the Fujian diocese.

The AsiaNews service reported that priests and laity of the diocese generally resisted heavy government pressure to attend the installation ceremony. AsiaNews reports that the new bishop will not be recognised by the most of the Catholics of the diocese.

Bishop Zhan is one of the four Chinese bishops ordained in January 2000 in another ceremony arranged in defiance of the Vatican.

The Patriotic Association, the chief architect of recent ordinations, has now arranged the installation of three new bishops without Vatican approval since the beginning of May - although one other Chinese prelate, Bishop Paolo Pei Junmin of Shenyang, was ordained on 7 May with the permission of the Holy See.

All three of the bishops named without Rome's approval have close ties to the government-backed Patriotic Association.

Observers believe that the Patriotic Association is hoping to establish its authority to name new bishops, thus stalling progress toward an accord between the government and the Holy See.

There are 97 Catholic dioceses in China today. Of these, 47 are currently without a bishop. Many of the other dioceses are led by bishops who are well beyond ordinary retirement age.

Viet government allows bishop's appointment (Catholic World News 15/5/06)
Chinese bishop installed, defying Vatican again (Catholic World News 15/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Church in Vietnam (catholic-hierarchy.org)
Catholic Church in China (catholic-hierarchy.org)

Vatican ordains 57 priests in Vietnam (CathNews 30/11/05)
China ordains Vatican-approved bishop (CathNews 9/5/06)
Pope declares diplomatic war with China (CathNews 5/5/06)
Vatican seeks to prevent second Chinese Govt-appointed bishop (CathNews 4/5/06)
Cardinal Zen urges suspension of bishop Beijing ordained (CathNews 1/5/06)
Beijing confirms the existence of "contacts" between China and the Holy See (CathNews 4/4/06)

Hanoi announces Pope's appointment of new Danang bishop (AsiaNews.it 15/5/06)
Hanoi expected to establish diplomatic relations with Vatican soon (AsiaNews.it 25/4/06)
Monsignor Zhan Silu installs himself as bishop and condemns himself to isolation (AsiaNews.it 15/5/06)
Zhan Silu, a bishop against everything and against everyone (AsiaNews.it 15/5/06)
China installs controversial Catholic bishop (ABC Asia Pacific 14/5/06)
China risks new row over bishop (BBC 14/5/06)
New bishop to sour Vatican ties (BBC 14/5/06)
China-Vatican spat likely to deepen (BBC 14/5/06)
China backs bishop but locals dissent (Reuters 14/5/06)
Card. Pham Minh Man invites Asian cardinals to Vietnam (AsiaNews.it 13/5/06)
Relations with China on knife-edge (The Tablet 13/5/06)
China Overstepping on Ordinations, Says Cardinal (Zenit 11/5/06)

16 May 2006