By Peter Tran, Originally Published by The National Catholic Reporter
The cardinal-elect had a few stops in the United States before flying to Rome for the consistory on June 28. He is then scheduled to go to France, before heading back to Laos in July.
It took him a few days before the reality of the announcement from Rome started to sink in, said Ling, an ethnic Kmhmu. Besides Kmhmu, he can also speak Lao, French and English. This interview, which was conducted in Lao, covers the surprise news, his first reactions and thoughts on why Francis elected him, the relationship between the church and government, and the martyrs of Laos. It has been edited for length and clarity.
NCR: Cardinal-elect Ling, when did you hear about the appointment?
Ling: I really had no idea. All of a sudden, I got a phone call from a former student. He said congratulations on your election to be a cardinal. I told him not to tease your elder [grandfather]. It is not right. I didn’t believe him at that time, which was after dinner on Sunday [May 21]. I was in Pakse at that time.
Afterward, I received another phone call from a religious sister, who also said congratulations to my appointment. I said, “Are you crazy?”
“No,” she replied.
Then I asked who else were elected. She said there were five people and you were the fourth one. I started to believe her just a little.