President of the Vietnam Bishops' Conference has been appointed coadjutor to the archbishop of Hanoi, raising speculation, especially in northern Vietnam, that the appointment has been made to ease tensions between the church and state.
It could also be part of ongoing negotiations to open the door in Vietnam for a papal visit next year.
The bishops' conference this week announced that Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon was appointed coadjutor. The appointment of a coadjutor is the first step in a transition of leadership in Hanoi where Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, who has reportedly been ill, has been an outspoken critic of the Hanoi government, espcially in its policy to seize church property for public use.
Health reasons were cited in the unusual appointment. Nhon is 72 and Kiet is 58.
The appointment of a coadjutor bishop older than the ordinary has appeared to some an unusual decision and has provoked press reports of government pressure in the appointment.
However, speaking with the local press, Kiet said: "Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon is a very respectable bishop and is worthy of being fully responsible for the Archdiocese of Hanoi.”.