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Vatican seeks stable representation in Vietnam

Holy See urges permanent embassy in Hanoi

Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City

Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City

Published: June 17, 2013 03:53 AM GMT

Updated: June 16, 2013 07:20 PM GMT

Vatican seeks stable representation in Vietnam

The Holy See has pressured Vietnam's government to allow the establishment “as soon as possible” of a stable Vatican diplomatic representation in the country, during the latest round of official dialogue in Rome last week.

During the meeting, which took place at the Vatican on June 13-14, the Vietnamese government called on the Catholic Church to take an “active part in its national construction and socio-economic development process.”

A high-level bilateral commission between Vietnam and the Holy See created in 2009 has met three times in recent years.

Its work led to the appointment of Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli as the Vatican non-resident representative in the country, the first papal ambassador there since the Communist North's victory over the South in 1975.

Girelli is currently based in Singapore. Vietnam has vowed to facilitate his visits to the country “in order to allow him to carry out his mission even more fruitfully,” according to a joint statement released after the Rome meeting.

The creation of a permanent Vatican embassy in Vietnam would be “for the benefit of all concerned” parties, the Vatican noted.

During the two-day session, the Vietnamese delegation stressed the Communist country's efforts for the “consistent implementation and continuous improvements” of its policies aimed at the “respect and assurance of freedom of religion and religious beliefs.”

At the end of May, the deputy president of the national assembly, Uông Chu Lu, started a revision of the legal framework regulating religion in the country.

Some religious actors have “taken advantage” of Vietnam's freedoms to “oppose the Communist Party and the state and slow down the process of development and international integration of Vietnam,” he warned, according to the official news agency VNA.

As Vietnam is engaged in the revision of its constitution, the Catholic Church has submitted its own proposal. It challenged the assumption that the Communist Party is the “guiding force of the state and of society,” and that Marxism-Leninism is its ideological foundation.

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A similarly challenging constitutional amendment, presented by 72 leading intellectuals and signed by thousands of people, has also been underwritten by some Vietnamese bishops, including the Bishop of Vinh, Nguyên Thai Hop, president of the country's “Justice and Peace” commission.

According to the final statement, during this week's meeting Vietnam and the Holy See “acknowledged the Church’s preaching regarding 'living the Gospel within the nation' and that 'being a good Catholic is also a good citizen'.”

Moreover, the Vatican confirmed that the Catholic Church wants to “contribute, in the manner specific to it, to the common good of society, and to transmit and implement the constant teachings of the popes on this matter.”

The two states also recognized the progress made in recent years, particularly with the organization of the Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Asia in December 2012.

The meeting took place in an atmosphere of “cordial sincerity, openness, and mutual respect,” the final statement said.

The Vatican delegation was led by Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican's under-secretary for relations with states, while the Vietnamese were led by Bui Thanh Son, vice-minister of foreign affairs.

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