Vietnam, Holy See Take Steps Toward Relations

1st Meeting of Working Group Held in Hanoi

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 20, 2009 ( Vietnam and the Holy See are showing their mutual commitment to paving the way for the establishment of bilateral relations.

A first meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group was held this week in Hanoi, as previously planned when a Holy See delegation visited the Asian nation last June.

The meeting was co-chaired by Nguyen Quoc Cuong, Vietnam’s vice minister of foreign affairs, and Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s undersecretary for relations with states.

According to a Vatican statement today, Quoc Cuong «expressed his wish for the Holy See’s active contribution to the life of the Catholic community in Vietnam, the strengthening of solidarity between religions and of the entire Vietnamese population, and the strong cohesion of the Catholic Church in Vietnam with the nation through practical contributions to national construction.»

For his part, Monsignor Parolin recognized «that positive progress has been made in the religious life in Vietnam and wished that the remaining unsolved matters in bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Holy See could be settled with goodwill through sincere dialogue.»

The Holy See representative emphasized the Church’s policy to «respect [the] independence and sovereignty of Vietnam, by which the Church’s religious activities would not be conducted for political purposes. He also stressed that the Church in its teachings invites the faithful to be good citizens, working for the common good of the country.»

Vietnam is about 7% Catholic. In January 2007, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made a historic visit to Benedict XVI. The Vatican press office then described the visit as making «a new and important step toward the normalization of bilateral relations.»

However, tensions in Vietnam hit an obstacle at the end of 2007 and last year, when Catholics launched prayer vigils to protest the seizure of Church property by the government.

After the Holy See’s June visit, the Vietnamese official news agency, VNA, stated: «The two sides agreed to a timetable for enhancing bilateral relations and also agreed such discussions should be held in the spirit of mutual trust and respect.»

The Holy See has diplomatic relations with 177 nations.

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