02/01/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM – VATICAN

Out of “respect for the Pope’ the government yields the former nunciature to Hanoi Catholics

The still unofficial report comes a day after Cardinal Bertone writes a letter to the capital’s archbishop who met again local authorities over the matter. Prayer “protests” had been going since before Christmas.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The request made by Hanoi Catholics for the return of the building that once housed the Apostolic Delegation seems to have been answered. Church sources in Vietnam told AsiaNews that the authorities have decided to allow Catholics to use the building “to show their good will and respect for the Pope.” The same sources said that the whole issue should be solved “within days,” perhaps before Tết, the Vietnamese New Year, which falls on 6 February.

If officially confirmed, the denouement of the matter comes after Vatican Secretary of State Card Tarcisio Bertone wrote a letter to Mgr Ngô Quang Kiệt, archbishop of Hanoi, who held another meeting with Communist authorities.

In his letter Cardinal Bertone said that Benedict XVI is following events in Vietnam and that the Vatican has contacted the Vietnamese government to find a solution to the dispute between the archdiocese and city authorities about who owned or held usufructuary rights to the compound that once was home to the former Apostolic Delegation.

In his message dated 30 January the prelate expressed his “admiration” for Hanoi Catholics and their peaceful demonstrations but also concern that the protest might get out of hand. For this reason, he urged everyone to go back to normal.

“As you can imagine, the Secretariat of State has closely and attentively followed events in the last few days in Hanoi,” wrote Cardinal Bertone in his letter to the archbishop of Hanoi.

“I am full of admiration,” the letter said in French, “for the feelings of great devotion and deep attachment to the Church and the Holy See shown by the thousands of faithful who, day after day, met peacefully to pray in front of this building, which has become a symbol, to ask the civil authorities to take charge of the needs of the Catholic community.”

“Moreover, the fact that these demonstrations are continuing cannot but be a cause of concern because, as it often occurs in similar cases, there is a real danger that things might get out of hand and degenerate in demonstrations of verbal or even physical violence. This is why on behalf of the Holy Father, who is constantly informed of the evolving situation, I call upon you to intervene so that every action that might trouble public order be avoided and things may get back to normal. It will thus be possible to renew the dialogue with the authorities in a calmer atmosphere and find an appropriate solution to this delicate problem. I can assure you that, as it has always done before, the Holy See will not fail to act for the legitimate aspirations of Vietnamese Catholics vis-à-vis your government.”

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