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.