Vatican Senses More Leeway in Vietnam

Cardinal Sepe Says New Dioceses Wouldn’t Be a Problem

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 12, 2005 ( A Vatican official believes that establishing new dioceses in Vietnam should not be problematic.

Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, made that assessment in the wake of conversations he had with Vietnamese authorities.

On Nov. 22, Benedict XVI established the Diocese of Ba-Ria in Vietnam, with territory taken from the Diocese of Xuan Loc.

The establishment of the diocese was announced two days earlier by the Vietnamese government «because of the very great number of Catholics,» at the request of the Vatican and the Vietnamese bishops’ conference, the AsiaNews agency reported at the time.

The celebration of the new diocese and its first bishop, as well as the priestly ordination of 57 deacons in the Hanoi cathedral were highlights of Cardinal Sepe’s recent pastoral visit to the Asian country.

During his Nov. 28-Dec. 5 visit, he met with a number of civil authorities, including the Vietnamese prime minister.

Profound faith

Commenting on his visit, the cardinal told Vatican Radio that he found «an extremely dynamic and lively Church.»

Cardinal Sepe, 62, added that the Church in Vietnam «is conscious of its faith» and wants to manifest it «with great enthusiasm.» The cardinal said he was moved by «this Christian warmth» and «this expression of profound faith.»

It is a Church that «loves Christ, regards him as its own, that is enthused by the Pope’s name,» he added.

Above all, the Church in Vietnam wants «to take part in the whole reality, including the social and cultural order, which also characterizes it in the whole Asian panorama,» he told Vatican Radio last Friday.

The cardinal was positive about prospects for further developments in the Church in Vietnam and in relations with the authorities, and mentioned that «in recent years very important steps have been taken in recognition, also by the government, of what the activity of the Church is.»

«The future is certainly very positive,» he said. «For example, at the end when I presided over the taking of possession of the new Diocese of Ba-Ria, also in the conversations with the authorities, it was agreed that eventual breakups of other dioceses should not constitute problems.»

Apostolic works

The Church in Vietnam is growing, is «very active» and is able to «organize itself,» to «carry out projects, not only for the present but also for the future,» the cardinal said.

Moreover, it is able to awaken «many vocations to the priesthood, to the religious life,» and commits itself as well in the social field to help «the sick, the disabled, AIDS carriers,» he added.

The Holy See and Vietnam do not enjoy diplomatic relations, but for years they have followed a path of rapprochement. Delegations from the Holy See have been visiting the country in recent years.

About 6 million of Vietnam’s 83 million inhabitants are Catholics, 80-90% of whom are practicing.

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