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CARDINAL CAN, ARCHBISHOP BINH, COADJUTOR ARCHBISHOP THUAN VISIT ROME

Updated: April 11, 1989 05:00 PM GMT
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Three top bishops of the Catholic Church in Vietnam met here April 11, presumably to discuss with Vatican officials some of the main challenges the Vietnam Church faces, according to Vatican sources.

Cardinal Joseph Marie Trinh Van Can of Hanoi was also in Rome to attend the annual meeting of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

Archbishop Paul Nguyen Van Binh of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh was in Europe at the invitation of the French Bishops Conference.

Coadjutor Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh was abroad for the first time since he was freed from detention last November. The archbishop, 61, had just visited relatives in Sydney, Australia.

Archbishop Thuan, who was arrested in 1975 and held 13 years without trial, the last six-and-a-half under house arrest, spoke privately with Pope John Paul II for about 25 minutes, a Vatican spokesperson said.

Points of discussion at the group meeting were not disclosed, but informed sources here list several probable topics:

-- A visit to Vietnam, probably in July, by Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president of the Pontifical Commission on Justice and Peace, and a later visit by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli.

-- Who will succeed Archbishop Binh, who is 78 years old.

-- How to deal with a small group of "patriotic" priests who misadvised the government to oppose the canonization of 117 Vietnamese martyrs last June, and allegedly now seek to regain power by handling Catholic relief and aid funds.

Sources say this group would likely cause difficulty if Archbishop Thuan is assigned to Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh. The group was reportedly instrumental in having him removed from the city, then called Saigon, in 1975.

Meanwhile, Bishop Thuan mentioned some current projects in Vietnam -- whose government now refers to a policy of "renewal," likened by some to Soviet "perestroika" -- that concern the Church.

They include a kindergarten reopened by St. Paul de Chartres Sisters in Da Nang, 625 kilometers north of Thanh-Pho Ho Chi Minh, and a home for aged run by Franciscan priests and nuns in Nha Trang, 340 kilometers north of the city.

Another project involves four Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, a diocesan congregation, with a school for mentally handicapped children in Nha Trang.

Asked about the possibility of more contact between Vietnamese bishops and episcopal conferences in other countries, Bishop Thuan pointed out that some contacts already began in January.

Archbishop Binh visited Hong Kong in mid-January and met with Cardinal John Baptist Wu Cheng-Chung of Hong Kong. In addition, a six-member delegation of United States bishops visited dioceses in Vietnam Jan. 4-9.

Concerning their priorities, Bishop Thuan said a main concern of the Vietnamese bishops is the training of priests. He also mentioned the importance of training for the laity.

In addition, the bishop noted an absence of qualified seminary professors, particularly in Hanoi, and a lack of books and facilities.

END

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