|Bishops at the ordination ceremony|
|Newly ordained Bishop Thomas Vu Dinh Hieu|
|Faithful at the ordination ceremony|
Bishops from 26 archdioceses and dioceses in Vietnam gathered in Xuan Loc for their Annual General Assembly from 5-10 October to discuss in details the situation of their archdioceses and dioceses, and to plan the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2010. All bishops in Vietnam attended the Assembly except Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi and Bishop Emmanuel Le Phong Thuan of Can Tho. They were reportedly so sick to attend the weeklong meeting.
In a pastoral letter sent to Catholics in Vietnam at the conclusion of their meeting, prelates explained that the year 2010 was chosen to commemorate with gratitude Vietnamese Martyrs whose blood with that of so many other Gospel witnesses made the Church in Vietnam fruitful. “The year 2010 marks 350 years the establishment of the two Apostolic Dioceses of North and South Vietnam (1659-2009), and 50 years of the institution of Catholic Hierarchy in Vietnam,” bishops said.
For bishops, the celebration of the Jubilee Year 2010 is “a good time to retrospect in order to thank God, to listen to lessons from history; to discuss the present situation of the Church: its advantages and its challenges; and to look ahead with a resolution to build up a Church discerning and obeying God's will”
The bishops’ pastoral letter announced in details ceremonials of the Jubilee beginning with the Opening Ceremony at So Kien, Hanoi on Nov. 24, 2009 on the Feast of the Vietnamese Martyrs, and concluding with the Closing Ceremony on Jan. 6, 2011 on the Feast of the Epiphany at La Vang National Sacred Marian Centre.
State media have reported the Jubilee Year of the Church in 2010 as “a favor at the mercy of the government’s kindness” urging Catholics not to protest but obey without questions decrees of local authorities on land issues.
In addition, since the end of bishops’ Ad Limina visit in June this Year, there have been rumors relating to a potential visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Vietnam. These rumors were initiated by some state media outlets at a critical time where tensions between the Church and the State had boiled over due to a series of crackdowns against Catholics. The Assembly Meeting Minutes signed by Bishop Vo Duc Minh, Coadjutor Bishop of Nha Trang, Vice Secretary of the Conference, however, practically dismissed the rumors: Bishops did not discuss anything relating to such a visit.
Apart from discussions on ceremonials of the Jubilee, bishops discussed at length on other issues including recent land disputes against the government that have caused escalating tensions and, at times, outright persecutions.
In particular, facing unwavering confrontations against Vietnam government on land issues, bishops decided to establish a Legal Consultant Committee led by Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tram of Ba Ria diocese. Some legal experts Catholic and non-Catholic alike were expected to join in the committee.
Bishops also approved the long-awaited Jrai and Bahna translation of the Roman Missal, and a petition to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for the start of canonical procedure for causes of beatification for Bishop Francois Pallu (1626-1684) and Bishop Lambert de la Motte (1624-1679).
The meeting was an opporunity for prelates to appeal urgent help for victims of Typhoon Ketsana and Typhoon Parma. The later hit Vietnam on Sunday Oct. 11 while the latest figures put the total number of dead from the first typhoon at 163, plus 108 missing and 600 wounded. Another 600,000 people fled their homes for safer ground. Hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnamese central provinces hit by typhoon Ketsana are facing the risk of infectious diseases.
On Saturday Oct. 10, 31 bishops attending the Annual General Assembly celebrated the ordination of Bishop Thomas Vu Dinh Hieu, the new auxiliary bishop of Xuan Loc. 600 priests and 15,000 faithful participated in the colorful ceremony.