By N.J. Viehland
Recently appointed Vietnamese Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Dinh Duc Dao of Xuan Loc Diocese, while serving as rector of the diocese’s Saint Joseph Seminary last December addressed delegates and participants of the Xth Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) Plenary Assembly during a cultural program held in the diocesan pastoral complex.
He expressed gratitude to the FABC “…for the joy of faith you have brought to us…” and “have inspired in us.”
Bishop Dao told us the presence of so many bishops, priests, religious women and lay Church workers in their country at one time “… opens up our mind and heart to the whole Church of Asia, and reminds us that we have other brothers and sisters who believe in the Lord as we do, scattered in the whole of Asia.”
The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) is an association of conferences of bishops of Catholic Churches in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia. The federation fosters solidarity and joint responsibility for church and society welfare in the region.
The conference includes sixteen Bishops’ Conferences from Bangladesh, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Laos-Cambodia, Malaysia-Singapore-Brunei, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Churches in places where there are no bishops’ conferences have been included as associate members, including Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia, Nepal, Novosibirsk (Russia), Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.
FABC gathers in plenary in various countries, and the 2012 assembly was the first to be held in a country under communist rule.
Two months after the FABC plenary assembly on Feb. 28, Pope Benedict appointed Monsignor Dao auxiliary bishop for Xuan Loc. He was the last bishop appointed by Benedict XVI before he stepped down as pope.
Bishop Dao said the presence of FABC delegates “… reminds us of our responsibility to share with other brothers and sisters in Asia the joy of faith in Christ.” Less than 3 percent of the population in most countries in Asia are Catholics.
The presence of Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales as special envoy for then Pope Benedict XVI , along with Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, secretary of the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples and Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, resident representative of the Holy Father to Vietnam “connect us to Rome and the Holy Father, and through the Holy Father with the whole Church,” Bishop Dao said.
He appealed to them, “Please, eminence and excellencies, convey to our beloved Holy Father, our love, our respect and our obedience. Please tell him that he has children here who are faithful to Christ and to the Church.”
In response, Cardinal Rosales promised bishops, priests, religious men and women and lay members of the Vietnam Catholic community gathered for a cultural presentation in the diocesan pastoral complex in Xuan Loc that he would convey their message of faith, love and loyalty to the Church and to Rome.
“I want to tell him (Pope Benedict) when I see him and report to him next month what I have seen, what I have witnessed and felt about what it is really to be Church of Jesus Christ, yes, in the whole of Asia, but in particular here in Vietnam. And I will assure you…I will remind him, ‘Do not forget, your Holiness, that you have children in that part of Asia.'”
Cardinal Rosales said he would tell Pope Benedict “I know you keep them (Vietnam Catholics) in your spirit, in your prayer, in your blessing, but they want me to remind you that you have children there who not only obey the Church, but they love you.”
He said one gift he will give the pope is an embroidery he received from a Vietnam government official during his visit to Hanoi prior to the FABC assembly. “…No less than the minister interpreted it and he said, ‘Look, Your Eminence, there are two islands in a big sea. This is Vietnam, and the other one is the Vatican. All you need is a bridge.”
Cardinal Rosales, however, told hundreds of people attending the cultural program, ” I am going to explain this to the Holy Father: A bridge is about to be built, but I think I saw a boat there. If there is no bridge, there should be a boat. After all, the Holy Father is pontifex. ”
In Cardinal Rosales’ view, the FABC experience showed “how bright the future is that God is preparing for Vietnam.”