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THREE VIETNAMESE PRELATES ARRIVE IN ROME FOR ´AD LIMINA´ VISITS

Updated: November 12, 1985 05:00 PM GMT
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The arrival here of three Vietnamese bishops has ended long Vatican uncertainty about the government´s willingness to authorize the visit.

Reaching Rome Nov. 7 for "ad limina" visits to Pope John Paul II were:

-- Cardinal Trinh Van Can of Hanoi, 64.

-- Archbishop Nguyen Van Binh of Than-Pho Hochiminh (Hochiminhville), 75.

-- Bishop Huynh Dong Cac of Qui Nhon, 62.

The three prelates appear to be the only bishops of Vietnam´s 40 allowed to visit the pope at this time, though some visited Rome earlier this year.

All bishops are required to visit Rome every five years, and the Vietnam government allowed almost all bishops to come to Rome in 1980.

-- Archbishop Binh clarified earlier reports about the arrest of Jesuits in Vietnam in August. He said only one Jesuit student, Pham Thanh Liem, was arrested in Dalat, and the Jesuit house was not confiscated.

In Thu Duc, nobody was arrested, but one of two Jesuit buildings was borrowed by the government for use as a school, he said. The Jesuit living there moved to a small house near a chapel, where priests are allowed to officiate.

Archbishop Binh also said he ordained four new priests Oct. 26 in the cathedral of Hochiminhville (Saigon), bringing to 11 the number of priests ordained with government authorization for the archdiocese in the past decade.

-- At the end of his weekly general audience Oct. 20, the pope urged international relief organizations to give generous and quick help to flood victims in central Vietnam.

He expressed sorrow for a nation he said is far away but "very dear to me," and offered the solidarity of his prayers.

"I would like to publicly express the wish that the amount of international aid, part of which will certainly be the generous contribution of the Catholic community, will be up to the serious and urgent needs caused by the typhoon," the pope said.

Though the three prelates had been reported as authorized to visit Rome, the pope voiced concerned about the Catholic community in Vietnam because the three had not yet arrived at the time of the October audience.

When the pope received Kampuchea´s Prince Norodom Sihanouk in private audience Sept. 9, some observers here feared it might result in Vietnamese officials, at war with Sihanouk supporters, clamping down on Catholics. They saw the papal appeal as a gesture of good will toward Vietnam authorities.

-- Vietnamese officials admit to jailing some Catholic priests, but deny the Church is repressed, according to a recent Associated Press (AP) report.

Officials in Hanoi insist priests jailed or sent to re-education camps are punished for political or civil crimes, and not for their religion.

Reporting from Hanoi, AP said government officials cite thousands of Catholics in cathedrals and churches on Sundays as proof religion is allowed.

"We have distinguished many times between those who genuinely worship and those who use religion to turn against the government," Hoang Tung, a Communist Party Central Committee member, is quoted as telling AP.

"The Vietnamese religious," he said, "have accepted the fact that when they are alive they live with the people and the Communist Party, and when they die they live with God. That´s all right with us."

AP cites human rights groups and refugees as saying seminaries have been closed, ordinations of priests curbed and Catholics pressured to join the Committee of Solidarity of Patriotic Catholics since a 1983 conference.

London-based Amnesty International, in its recent Human Rights Report, lists arrests of priests and other religious leaders, "prisoners of conscience."

The Hanoi government, the Vatican sources said, has moved against Archbishop Philippe Nguyen Kim Dien of Hue, because of his opposition to the committee.

END

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