Vatican City (AsiaNews) – A Holy See delegation returned to Rome today after a week-long visit to Vietnam. Led by Mgr Pietro Parolin, under-secretary for Relations with States, it included Mgr Luis Mariano Montemayor, nunciature adviser in the Vatican Secretariat of State, and Mgr Barnabé Nguyen Van Phuong, from the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. The delegation discussed establishing diplomatic relations, talks about religious freedom and related topics, and Episcopal appointments. It also conducted diocesan and parish visits raising hopes among the faithful about a possible papal visit.
In its press release about the visit the Vatican indicated that the Vietnamese side gave particular relevance to the 14th visit by a Vatican delegation, especially since it came on the heels of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyên Tân Dung’s visit to the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, last January.
In Vietnam the delegation first met Mgr Paul Nguyên Van Hòa, bishop of Nha Trang and chairman of the Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam and its standing council, and then government officials.
“Working sessions with the Religious Affairs Committee chaired by Nguyên The Doanh were held in an atmosphere of cordiality, frankness, and respect which allowed for an overall review of Vietnam’s Ordinance regarding Religious Belief and Religious Organizations of June 18, 2004, which lays out government policy in religious matters. Episcopal appointments as well as issues relating to the life and activities of the Catholic Church were also discussed.”
“The government delegation highlighted the role the Catholic community plays in the country. The Holy See delegation expressed hope that Catholics might be able to spread moral values, especially in terms of youth education and solidarity with the weakest social groups, in a society that is undergoing rapid socio-economic changes.”
Both sides stressed that “unresolved issues can be dealt with and a solution found by mutual consent through patient and constructive dialogue.”
The Vatican delegation also met Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Le Cong Phung; the Deputy Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Communist Party’s Central Committee Pham, Xuan Son; and the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Vietnam’s National Assembly, Vu Mao.
“During the meetings the issue of normalising diplomatic relations was raised. The Vietnamese side reassured their Vatican guests that under the Prime Minister’s instructions the appropriate bodies are at work examining concrete ways to start the process of establishing diplomatic relations.”
Visits to some of the country’s dioceses were particularly moving for the Vatican delegation. This year the dioceses of Quy Nhon and Kontum were chosen; they are the last to be visited by a delegation of the Holy See.
“An atmosphere of profound joy and ecclesial communion” marked the celebration of mass everywhere.
The diocese of Kontum, which is located in the central highlands, is largely inhabited by Catholics belonging to ethnic minorities, the so-called Montagnards, who took part in great numbers to prayer meetings. In each diocese, the delegation also met the chairmen of local People’s Committees.
Finally, the delegation was able to celebrate mass in Hanoi’s St Joseph’s Cathedral and in the Hon Gai Parish Church in Ha Long, Hai Phòng diocese, not far from the border with China. It also visited several religious houses, charities, boarding schools and kindergartens run by the Church, whose work continues to “draw admiration for its courage, vitality and dynamism.”
“To all those it met the delegation brought the encouragement and blessing of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, towards whom the faithful expressed their profound affection, filial attachment and fidelity, hopeful that one day he might make a pastoral visit to the country.”