Cablegate: Vietnamese Catholics Install New Bishop

Published: Wed 1 Oct 2003 09:58 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Vietnamese Catholics install new Bishop
-- and welcome a new Cardinal
Ref: A. Vatican City 4461 B. Hanoi 2294 C. Hanoi 1698
1. (U) In an open air ceremony in Son Tay town of Ha Tay
province (adjacent to Hanoi), Vietnamese Catholics formally
installed Father Anton Vu Huy Chuong as Bishop of Hung Hoa
diocese, which covers most or all of the provinces of Ha
Tay, Son La, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, and Phu Tho. As
noted in ref b, this bishopric had been vacant for more than
a decade, due to inability between the Vatican and the GVN
to agree on an appointment.
2. (U) Among the guests of honor were newly appointed
Cardinal (ref a) Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man (concurrently
Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City), the Archbishop of Hue, and
all of Vietnam's other 21 Bishops. Missing only was
Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, who is also Archbishop
of Hanoi and who has long been in poor health. More than
400 priests and 100 nuns also attended, along with a crowd
of over 10,000 people, many of them ethnic minorities,
primarily Hmong from Son La and Lai Chau provinces. (Note:
officials in those provinces had insisted in June that there
were no religious believers of any religion locally -- ref
c.) Pol/C was the only foreign diplomat and perhaps the
only Westerner present (although there may have been some
overseas Viet Kieu among the crowd). No GVN officials were
introduced or obvious among the attendees, but there may
have been representatives of the Government Committee on
Religious Affairs (CRA) present.
3. (U) Bishop Chuong is a native of Hung Hoa diocese who
had been among the Catholic exodus to the south in 1954. He
had most recently been resident in Can Tho province, and
indicated to Pol/C how pleased he had been to return to his
native home about two months ago. Visibly tired after the
three hour ceremony -- in full regalia -- despite the sunny
skies and 90 degree Fahrenheit heat, he promised a follow-on
meeting with Pol/C "after six days" to discuss conditions
for Catholics in his diocese, especially among the
minorities. The organizers made a point of including one
Hmong woman to read a Bible lesson in Hmong during the
service, the only lay person invited to speak.
4. (U) Cardinal Man was not a center of attention,
although he and other Bishops sat on the stage and performed
ritual blessings. He did not, for example, place the
Bishop's new mitre on his head. However, Cardinal Man was
referred to during the service by this new title, and
Catholics in the congregation appeared delighted by the news
(which has not appeared in the Vietnamese media, as far as
Embassy is aware). Bishops, priests, and lay persons with
whom Pol/C spoke expressed uniform optimism that the GVN's
approval or lack thereof would be of no relevance for Man's
appointment as Cardinal. In contrast, the invitation to the
Bishop's own ordination explicitly noted that Pope Jean Paul
II's appointment of Bishop Chuong had been "recognized by
the State of Vietnam."
5. (U) According to foreign journalists, the Foreign
Ministry has so far declined to comment on reports of
Cardinal Man's appointment, as well as on unattributed
comments from a CRA official that the GVN would not "accept"
this "unilateral" appointment, or that Vietnamese diplomats
in Rome had been instructed to protest to the Vatican.
6. (U) Comment: This installation marks another positive
step for Vietnamese Catholics, especially their ability to
organize such a large scale celebration. Like other
Catholic leaders, Bishop Chuong will have to walk a fine
line of adhering to the Vatican without alienating GVN
officials, a task made all the more difficult by the non-
recognized status of most or all of the ethnic minority
congregations in the Northwest Highland areas of his
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