HANOI, Vietnam, APRIL 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- After spending more than a month in Rome where he was receiving medical treatment, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet returned to the Archdiocese of Hanoi.
A communiqué published on the archdiocesan Web site announced his arrival at Noi Bai International Airport Friday morning.
A group of priests from the archbishopric, the seminary and the cathedral went to the airport to welcome him.
Before returning to the country, the archbishop stayed briefly in Paris. He said he had recovered his strength and was healed, reported the Eglises d’Asie agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris.
When Archbishop Kiet left Hanoi for Rome on March 4, he said he would be absent for two months, but his journey abroad was actually much shorter.
The days preceding his return coincided with the beginning of the Vietnamese episcopal conference’s assembly.
During the prelate’s absence, rumors had been circulating, including allegations of negotiations underway between the bishops’ conference and the civil authorities about the archbishop’s resignation and his replacement. This information was never confirmed.
The bishops themselves, who have been making public appearances daily to report in detail on the work of the day, have never mentioned this matter.
In the assembly’s opening address, the president of the conference only asked for the bishops’ prayers for the archbishop of Hanoi.
As well, the archdiocesan Web site has only announced the arrival of its head without adding other comments.
Archbishop Kiet has been experiencing insomnia and physical weakness due to the strain of recent events such as hosting an Apostolic Delegation, beginning in December of 2007.
As well, he has been dealing with increased tension between the faithful and the civil authorities due to a land battle over a parish in Thai Ha, and the police’s destruction of a crucifix at Dong Chiem.
Last June, during his five-yearly visit to Rome, the prelate mentioned his health concerns to Church authorities.
He also commented on these concerns to clergy in his archdiocese, sparking doubts about his future. Several days in the Cistercian monastery of Chau Son, close to Hanoi, were not sufficient to restore health to the archbishop, although he continued serving through the opening of the Holy Year.
The jubilee year currently underway in Vietnam celebrates 350 years since the establishment of its first two apostolic vicariates and 50 years since the hierarchy was put in place. It runs through Jan. 6, 2011.
Archbishop Kiet accepted the invitation of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to come to Rome in order to receive appropriate medical treatment.
The Catholic people and clergy of Hanoi, who are very close to the person of their archbishop, have expressed concerns over the constant rumors regarding the government’s pressure for his resignation and replacement by another Vietnamese prelate. The communiqué noted that these rumors even included names of possible substitutes.