» 02/24/2012, 00.00
VATICAN - VIETNAM
Holy See-Vietnam Working Group to meet in late February
The meeting will take place in Hanoi on 27-28 February. The non-residential pontifical representative has already met almost all of the country's bishops and their respective communities. Tensions remain over religious freedom, compounded by corruption in high places.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Holy See-Vietnam Joint Working Group will hold its third meeting in Hanoi at the end of February. The group is tasked with setting the bases for diplomatic relations.
In a brief communiqué, the Vatican Information Service reported, "In accordance with the decision taken at the end of the second meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group, held in the Vatican on 23 and 24 June 2010, the third meeting of the Joint Working Group will take place in Hanoi, Vietnam, on 27 and 28 February. Following a number of visits by the non-resident Pontifical representative to Vietnam, the meeting will serve to strengthen and develop bilateral relations."
The Working Group was set up in February 2009 after years of informal talks to study the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
As a result of the group's work, Benedict XVI appointed Mgr Leopoldo Girelli as non-residential pontifical representative to Vietnam. Although not a full nuncio and based in Singapore, Mgr Girelli has been able to visit the country and meet almost of its bishops and their respective communities.
Like in China, Vietnam has embarked on economic reforms but is reticent about political change that would guarantee religious freedom to the country's Christians (and Buddhists).
In recent years, Catholics have been the victims of several episodes of violence. Evangelisation is especially discouraged in the North and Church property (land and buildings) has been confiscated.
At the same time, Catholics have become more involved in society, unofficially tolerated by the authorities to deal with issues like health care (leprosy), senior citizens and education, which are progressively disregarded by increasingly corrupt government officials.
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The fifth meeting of the Working Group ends with a joint statement. In it, the Vatican "reaffirmed its commitment towards the goal of establishing diplomatic relations with Viet Nam," with the latter reiterating "the consistent policy of the State and Party in respecting freedom of religion and belief of all people".
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According to official Vietnamese news agency, the date for the start of a joint group will be set as soon as possible; its task is to examine the “process of developing bilateral relations”.
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According to official VNA news agency, a decision in that sense was taken during talks between the Vatican undersecretary for relations with states and Vietnam’s authorities.
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The Catholic Church "will continue to be inspired by the Magisterium of the Church regarding the practice of "living the gospel in the nation". "The meeting took place in an atmosphere of cordiality, frankness and mutual respect".
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