Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi confirms government concession
Hanoi, Feb. 4, 2008 (vaticans.org) - Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi has confirmed reports that the government of Vietnam has agreed to restore the offices of the apostolic nuncio in Hanoi after more than a month of public protests by lay Catholics.
In a February 1 statement, the archbishop welcomed the government's action and said that it was due in large part to the solidarity among Catholics in Vietnam, the support of Catholic news media outlets elsewhere, and the diplomatic intercession of the Vatican.
Since December 18, thousands of Catholics in Hanoi had been organizing daily prayer vigils outside the former nunciature in Hanoi, pleading for return of the building that had been confiscated by the Communist leadership in 1959. On February 1, CWN and other media outlets learned that the protests had brought a stunning victory, with the agreement from the government to turn the building over to Church leaders.
The government's surprising concession-- after years of ignoring pleas from Catholic leaders-- came at the end of a quick sequence of events. As the protests outside the nuncio's office drew larger crowds and more public attention, Vietnamese authorities threatened to take legal action against the archbishop and other clerics involved in the prayer vigils. Catholic activists defied a government order to vacate the premises. The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, wrote to Archbishop Ngo, urging him to avoid confrontations and promising to press the Vietnamese government for return of the building. Then, just hours after the letter from Cardinal Bertone was made public, the government agreed to return the building, in exchange for an agreement that the public demonstrations would come to an end.
During 40 days of protest, “We have lived a new Pentecost.” the archbishop wrote in his February 1 statement. He praised the Vietnamese Catholics who "have been united and devoted ourselves to the prayers…despite challenges and hardship." Archbishop Ngo noted that the solidarity among Catholics was "not limited within the Archdiocese of Hanoi but extended worldwide."
"Your earnest prayers have brought about a great result," the archbishop said. He reported that the agreement struck with government officials would be implemented in stages, beginning with the immediate closing of a restaurant that had been located in the building once occupied by the nuncio.
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