VATICAN CITY, 27 JUN 2009 (VIS) - This morning the Holy Father received prelates from the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam who have just completed their "ad limina" visit.
The Pope began his remarks to them by recalling the figure of Cardinal Paul Joseph Phan Ding, who died in February and was for many years archbishop of Hanoi. He also expressed his hope that "the example of sanctity, humility and simplicity of life of the great pastors of your country may stimulate you in your pastoral ministry at the service of the Vietnamese people, to whom goes my profound esteem".
Referring then to the Year for Priests, Benedict XVI pointed out that, "in order to be reliable guides who conform to the heart of God and the teaching of the Church, priests must develop interior life and tend towards sanctity, like the humble Cure of Ars".
"In your pastoral letter of last year", he reminded the prelates, "you dedicated particular attention to the lay faithful, highlighting the role of their vocation in the family". In this context, the Pope indicated that "lay Catholics must - through lives based on charity, honour and love for the common good - show that a good Catholic is also a good citizen. To this end, pay particular attention to their correct formation, promoting their life of faith ... that they may effectively serve the Church and society".
The Holy Father also spoke of his hope that attention be given to "appropriate pastoral care for internally displaced youth, beginning with reinforcing ... collaboration between the dioceses of origin of the young people and the dioceses of destination, giving them ethical advice and practical guidance".
After then recalling how 2010 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the episcopal hierarchy in Vietnam, the Pope said: "On this occasion the People of God are invited to give thanks for the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. This gift has been generously accepted, lived and witnessed by many martyrs who wished to proclaim the truth and universality of faith in God".
"Closer collaboration between different dioceses is necessary", Benedict XVI went on, "as it is between dioceses and religious congregations, and among the congregations themselves".
"Healthy collaboration between the Church and the political community is possible. ... The Church does not seek to substitute government, rather her only desire, through a spirit of dialogue and respectful collaboration, is to participate in life of the nation, at the service of all people".
The Pope concluded by highlighting how religions "are not a danger for the unity of the nation, because their goal is to help people to sanctity and, through their institutions, wish to place themselves generously and disinterestedly at the service of others".
AL/.../VIETNAM VIS 20090630 (470)