Holy See and Vietnam Seek to Normalize Ties

Delegation From Communist Government Visits Rome

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 3, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See and Vietnam may be close to establishing full diplomatic relations, the Vatican says.

A Vatican note published Saturday revealed that a delegation of the Vietnamese government’s Religious Affairs Commission visited Rome from June 27 to July 2. The delegation also included representatives of the foreign ministry.

“The working session in the Secretariat of State, directed in a climate of cordial respect and fruitful dialogue by the undersecretary for relations with states, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, concentrated, as usual, on some aspects of the life of the Catholic Church in Vietnam, reflecting on evolutions noted since the last meeting and problems that continue” unresolved, disclosed the Holy See.

The Vietnamese government does not allow the direct appointment of bishops. Rather, it requires that the Holy See present a few names among which the government chooses the candidate it considers suitable.

The authorities also decide on candidates for the seminaries — in which Marxism must be taught — and for priestly ordination.

“Special attention was given to the new governmental law on beliefs and religions, published in November of last year,” the Vatican statement added.

Liberty at stake

Last November the Catholic bishops of Vietnam expressed their concern over the violation of religious liberty, which might be implied by the application of the ordinance on beliefs and religions adopted by the Permanent Committee of Vietnam’s National Assembly.

In statements to ZENIT, Father Giuseppe Hoang Minh Thang, who works in the Vietnamese section of Vatican Radio, explained that “if the law is applied exactly as it has been written, it will be the end of religious liberty.”

The Vatican statement added that the meetings in Rome also reflected on “the question of relations between Vietnam and the Holy See, in the hope that it will advance rapidly in the direction of their normalization.”

It was the second visit of a delegation of the Vietnamese government to the Vatican since 1992.

Meetings are held every year between the Holy See and the government to clarify concrete questions regarding their mutual relations.

Vatican tour

In the latest meeting, the Vietnamese delegation “was able to know the reality of the Vatican more directly and profoundly,” the Vatican statement said.

The members were received by Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for relations with states.

They visited Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as well as the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

They also saw Vatican Radio’s Vietnamese program and spoke with Vietnamese seminarians studying at the Urbanian College in Rome.

The delegation attended the Mass on June 29, solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, during which Benedict XVI bestowed the pallium on the newly appointed Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi.

Of Vietnam’s 80 million inhabitants, 7 million are Christians, including 6 million Catholics. Buddhists number 50 million, and adherents of the Cao Dai religion number 4 million.

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