UCA News
Archbishop Gallagher’s visit to strengthen ties with Vietnam

A top Vatican official is on a six-day visit to Vietnam to strengthen diplomatic ties with the communist-ruled nation

Published: April 12, 2024 11:26 AM GMT

Updated: April 12, 2024 11:30 AM GMT

The Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, arrived in Vietnam on Wednesday on a six-day visit aiming at further fostering full diplomatic ties with the communist country.

Archbishop Marek Zalewski, the resident pontifical representative to Vietnam, gave Gallagher a warm welcome at the national capital Hanoi. Gallagher met his Vietnamese counterpart, Bui Thanh Son, and affirmed that the Vatican and Vietnam have a good relationship.

Son said that the Vatican envoy’s visit would further strengthen ties between both sides and proposed continuing high-level exchanges. Vatican and Vietnam signed a landmark agreement last year that allowed a resident papal representative in the country.

Vietnam has also invited Pope Francis to visit his country. Gallagher is the most senior official to visit the country since diplomatic relations severed in 1975 following the communist takeover and unification of Vietnam.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher is welcomed with flowers on his arrival in Hanoi on April 9.

Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher is welcomed with flowers on his arrival in Hanoi on April 9. (Photo courtesy of tonggiaophanhanoi.org)

The Pontificate: Contribute to help UCA News

The last of the Myanmar military base in key border town Myawaddy has fallen to rebel forces after a fierce five-day battle. The surviving junta soldiers were forced to flee across the border to Thailand before reinforcements could arrive.

Battalion 275 succumbed after relentless attacks on the base on Myawaddy’s western flank by the Karen National Liberation Army or KNLA and the People’s Defence Force fondly called as PDF.

A member of a Myanmar militia carries a weapon on the Myanmar side of the Moei river, as seen from Thailand's Mae Sot district on April 11. (Photo: AFP)

The fall of Myawaddy caps a five-month dry season offensive by 20 ethnic armed organizations – including the KNLA – and the PDF, the armed wing of the opposition National Unity Government, who have recorded spectacular battlefield successes around the country.

KNLA-PDF forces secured most of Myawaddy last Saturday, but heavy fighting persisted amid heavy aerial bombardments by the military. Banks, markets, and most businesses were closed. Internet and phone lines were cut. Thailand has offered to talk with all in a bid to resolve the conflict.

A Catholic diocese in India’s southern Kerala state faced criticism after it screened a controversial movie for its catechism students. Idukki diocese covered by the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church, screened the Hindi language film, the Kerala Story, in all parishes last Thursday.

The 2023 movie is regarded as Islamophobic as it is based on “Love Jihad,” a derogatory term used to describe Muslim boys feigning love to marry Christian and Hindu girls to convert them to Islam. The Kerala government and socio-political leaders say the movie is not based on facts and is disparaging to Kerala.

A Muslim couple drives past a movie theatre screening 'The Kerala Story' in Mumbai on May 10, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Pro-Hindu groups and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi support the movie, saying it exposes the Islamic agenda against India.

After Modi came to power in 2014, minorities including Muslims and Christians have faced increased persecution from hardline groups. The BJP is seeking reelection in the national election starting April 19. 

At least 13 people have been killed and several hundred families lost their houses in a pre-monsoon storm that hit Bangladesh last Sunday. Seven southern and southwestern districts of the country were badly affected by the weather phenomenon.

Most of the deaths were a result of lightning strikes and damage to human dwellings. The dead were mostly farmers working in the open fields. Environmentalists say an effective early warning system could have saved lives.

A man raises a storm danger signal flag ahead of Cyclone Mocha's landfall in Bangladesh on May 13, 2023.  The South Asian nation lacks a warning mechanism for pre-monsoon storms called nor’westers. (Photo: AFP)

Bangladesh is no stranger to natural disasters. However, climatologists say the frequency of disasters like storms, cyclones, and floods has increased in recent years due to climate change impacts.

Last month, an untimely storm coupled with hailstorms hit four of Bangladesh’s eight administrative divisions. The relatively large size of hail stones left nearly 100 people injured and damaged many houses and vehicles. More than 3,700 people have been killed in natural disasters in the past 14 years.

Rights activists called for a probe and end of violence in Indonesia’s restive Christian-majority Papua region after one child was killed and another seriously injured in fighting between security forces and an armed rebel group.

A twelve-year-old boy was killed and his six year old sister was reportedly in a coma in hospital after they were shot at their home in Intan Jaya Regency of Central Papua Province. Both the security forces and rebel West Papua National Liberation Army denied involvement and blamed each other for the incident.

The funeral of 12-year-old Ronaldo Duwitau was held on April 9, a day after he was killed in a gunfight between the Indonesian military and Papuan pro-independence groups. (Photo supplied)

Church leaders and rights activists in Papua have opposed the increasing numbers of military soldiers and police in the region, saying security beefing triggers more violence. At least 49 incidents of violence against civilians were reported last year resulting in 41 deaths and 67 injuries.

Papua endured deadly violence since Indonesia annexed the territory, triggering a pro-independence insurgency after the end of Dutch colonial rule in the 1960s.

Progressive politicians, activists and a student body in the Philippines have expressed fear over the first-ever four-nation military drill in the South China Sea, a hotbed of tension between several Southeast Asian nations and a major global shipping route.

Mission In Asia: Contribute to help UCA News

The first “Multilateral Maritime Cooperative Activity” involving defense wings of the United States, Australia, Japan and the Philippines concluded off Batanes Island near Taiwan last Sunday. Lawmaker France Castro warned such military drills could push the Philippines into the theater of war in Southeast Asia.

The 'Multilateral Maritime Cooperative Activity,' a joint maritime drill by Australia, the United States, Japan and the Philippines, in progress off the coast within the Philippines Exclusive Economic Zone on April 7. (Photo: AFP)

The US has roped in Japan and Australia as allies in its Indo-Pacific Strategy that aims to contain China. Along with India, they form part of the defense alliance, QUAD. Next week, US President Joe Biden will hold the first trilateral summit with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Washington.

The League of Filipino Students, the largest youth outfit in the Catholic-majority nation, urged the public to denounce the “interference” both by the US and China in the affairs of the Philippines.

Religious minorities have expressed concerns over demands by pro-Hindu nationalists to re-establish monarchy and Hindu state in Nepal. This week, pro-monarchy supporters took to the streets and clashed with police.

Members of minority groups said they are facing rising pressure from hardline Hindu groups in the form of hate speech, discrimination from the state and public, and mob violence. The march in the capital Kathmandu was organized by right-wing and pro-monarchist party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, the fifth largest party in the parliament, on Tuesday.

Supporters of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) waving their party flag shout slogans during a protest to demand the restoration of monarchy and the status of a Hindu state in the Himalayan nation, along a street in Kathmandu on April 9. (Photo: AFP)

Media reports say that in recent months, the districts in Eastern Nepal bordering India, have experienced a rise in cases of communal violence and social hostilities targeting the religious minority groups by religious fanatics.

This prompted the local governments to enforce 'curfews' to bring the situation under control. Nepal abolished absolute monarchy in 2007 and declared itself a secular state.

Malaysians have paid tributes to an Irish missionary nun who pioneered girls' education for decades. Sister Enda Ryan, a member of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary congregation, died last Sunday at the age of 96.

The nun has been widely hailed as the founder of the iconic Assunta schools and for helping to build the Ave Maria Clinic, now the Assunta Hospital, the first private hospital in Malaysia. The schools and hospital are in Petaling Jaya, a newly developed satellite town for Kuala Lumpur.

Sister Enda Ryan is seen with her former students in this file image. (Courtesy: Lily Lee)

Many have posted on social media lauding the nun's contributions. She was born on December 30, 1928, joined the congregation in 1947, and came to the then Malaya in 1955 after graduating from university with a degree in education.

The nun retired in 1989 but was a leading figure in developing education policies and practices in Malaysia. In 1966, the Malaysian government granted her citizenship for her contributions to education.

Tibetan Buddhists have denounced the Chinese authorities for a directive that bans some of the religious practices conducted after the death of Dalai Lama, the supreme spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism.

The pro-Beijing regime in Tibet recently distributed a manual containing a ban on 10 activities after the Dalai Lama’s death including refraining from displaying his photos and other “illegal religious activities and rituals.”

The Dalai Lama speaks at a public gathering in Dharamsala in India on Feb. 24. (Photo: AFP)

The manual also lists rules against disrupting the process of recognizing the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation, which has been a contentious issue with the Chinese authorities.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that the successor of the Dalai Lama happens through incarnation, whereas the Chinese government seeks to control the centuries-old selection method by appointing its preferred candidate. China annexed Tibet in 1951, muzzled dissent with an iron fist and attempted to strongly influence socio-economic and religious life of Tibetans ever since.

Cambodian government has decided to deport 700 Chinese nationals suspected of running illegal online gambling and scam operations.

This came amid an ongoing crackdown on cyber criminals operating out of Sihanoukville, a notorious den for organized crime on the south coast.

In this Sept 27, 2022, photo in Phnom Penh, a victim of a Chinese scamming gang shows a scar on his leg after he was tortured. Dozens of casinos sprang up in recent years in Sihanoukville following Chinese investment, making the City a hub for gamblers and drawing in international crime groups. (Photo: AFP)

The Chinese were detained after joint Cambodian-Chinese police operations following a similar crackdown on Chinese nationals, at the behest of Beijing, in Laos and Myanmar.

More than 40,000 Chinese nationals were deported for similar crimes from Myanmar during the last three months of last year.

Cambodia has seen a rise in human trafficking and scam compounds run by organized crime rings, which erupted during the Covid-19 pandemic and has since spread into neighboring countries.

However, the government ordered a crackdown after 2,000 people were arrested for online crimes this year.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
UCA News

Explore UCA News

UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia