Vietnam OKs 3 Bishops and Rejects 3 Others

Diplomatic Ties With Vatican Still on Hold

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 18, 2001 ( A Vatican delegation´s visit to Vietnam ended with agreement on the appointment of three bishops, the rejection of three others, and postponement in the establishment of official Hanoi-Holy See relations.

“The religious policy has not changed,” the Fides missionary agency reported today, quoting Church sources in the country. “With the exception of some concessions, freedom is nonexistent.”

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls said the delegation, which visited Vietnam from June 11-17, included Monsignor Celestino Migliore, undersecretary for relations with states, and Monsignor Barnaba Nguyen Van Phuong, of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The delegation met with Nguyen Van Son, president of the Commission for Foreign Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam; Chu Tuan Cap, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs; and Le Quang Vinh, president of the Religious Affairs Office.

Navarro-Valls´ official statement on the meetings was much less explicit than Fides. He limited himself to saying: “There was a discussion on the naming of bishops. Some will be published soon, whereas other appointments await a response in the near future from the Vietnamese.”

“The topic of relations between Vietnam and the Vatican was also addressed,” he said, and referred to the “steps taken to date toward normalcy.”

According to Fides, one of the three new Vietnamese bishops will head the Bui Chu Diocese, whose see has been vacant for the past two years; another will be auxiliary bishop of Ho Chi Minh; and the third, coadjutor of Phan Thiet.

Rome hoped to appoint three more bishops, but for the time being prefers to wait, given the failure of agreement with Vietnam.

According to Fides, a coadjutor bishop is urgently needed for the Hanoi Diocese whose bishop, Cardinal Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, is already 83; a bishop for the Hung Hoa Diocese, which has been without one since 1992; and a bishop for Haiphong, a post vacant for the past three years.

Two years ago, Vietnam promised to “study the possibility” of establishing diplomatic relations with Rome. However, sources close to the government told Fides that “at this moment the government is too busy on other fronts: stability, development, people´s welfare. We hope that something can be done in the future. For the time being, let us continue to dialogue.”

Catholic sources in Ho Chi Minh told Fides that on this occasion the meetings between the delegations “have been less harsh and with more smiles,” however, “religious policy has not changed.”

Navarro-Valls said the Vatican delegation also visited the members of the Permanent Council of the Vietnamese bishops´ conference. It also visited Lang Son Diocese, on the border with China, which is witnessing a rebirth of the Catholic community, made up primarily of tribal and Thai Binh peoples.

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