Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The goal of the fifth meeting of the Joint Vatican-Vietnam Working Group set for 10-11 September in Hanoi is to "deepen and develop bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Holy See," said Pham Thu Hang, deputy spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam. Similarly, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, said the meeting would serve "to strengthen and develop bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Holy See."
Led respectively by Bui Thanh Sơn, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mgr Anthony Camilleri, undersecretary for Relations with States, the two delegations are set to discuss full diplomatic relations, which were interrupted after Saigon's "liberation" in 1975, as well as the situation of Vietnamese Catholics.
After a particularly hard period, a process of rapprochement culminated in 2011 in the appointment of Mgr Leopoldo Girelli as a non-resident pontifical representative in Vietnam.
The question of respect for religious freedom, which has been severely limited for Catholics, remains unresolved. The former represent about 8 percent of Vietnam's population. On several times, the Holy See noted violations of religious freedom.
In March this year, Pope Francis spoke about the situation of Catholics when he met with Nguyen Sinh Hung, speaker of the Vietnamese National Assembly.
When he received Vietnam's bishops in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI noted that "a good Catholic is also a good citizen". At the same time, "the Church is contributing to the human and spiritual development of people, but also to the development of the country.
For the pope emeritus, the Church's "intention is certainly not to replace government leaders," but only "to play a just role in the nation's life, at the service of the whole people, in a spirit of dialogue and respectful collaboration."
During the sixth Asian Youth Day, Pope Francis said that Asian governments should not fear the Holy See because "Christians don't come as conquerors, they don't come to take away our identity: they bring us their own, but they want to walk with us". Indeed, "the Church is called to be versatile [. . .] through dialogue and openness to all" states.