11/24/2008, 00.00
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Meeting of Vietnamese "government" Catholics' committee ends in disaster

by J.B. An Dang
The meeting, delayed for three years, was announced by the press, but the final account fails to mention the number of participants. The body has changed its name for the third time, but it continues to find no support among the faithful.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The fifth meeting of the Vietnam Committee for Solidarity of Catholics (VSSC) is a failure. The meeting represents the most recent attempt by the Vietnamese government to create a Chinese-style patriotic Church.

Scheduled for 2005, after numerous delays the VSSC finally met in Hanoi on November 19 and 20. In the report by the government news agency VNA, it is claimed to have included "425 delegates, including 145 priests." But things may not have gone quite this way, since the report issued at the end of the meeting by VietNamNet, another state news agency, does not give the number of participants, and says that 128 members were elected, including 74 priests. These would represent less than 3% of the approximately 2,800 Vietnamese priests.

The government's attempt to create a Catholic Church faithful to the communist party, and not to the pope, has met with nothing but failure. An initial "Liaison Committee for Patriotic and Peace-Loving Catholics" was created in March of 1955. It had the same objectives as similar bodies set up to divide the followers of the various religions, especially the Buddhists, today split between the Vietnamese Buddhist Church - an organization "approved" by the government - and the Unified Buddhist Church.

The operation, even back then, was not able to do much, so the government changed its approach, trying to uproot the Church by blocking the appointments of bishops, almost completely closing the seminaries, and confiscating Church property. Things seemed to go better for the regime after the unification of the country in 1975, with the "Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics" (VCSC), which, at first, obtained the participation of many Catholics. But this situation was also reversed by the imprisonment of many priests and Catholic laity, beginning with the auxiliary bishop of Saigon, the future Cardinal Francis Nguyen Van Thuan, and a shocking religious celebration at the first congress of the VCSC: the priests completely eliminated the prayer for the pope, indicating a position that led to the exit of the few members who remained.

The fate of the VCSC was sealed in 1985, with a warning from the Holy See against clergy membership in the committee.

Today it seems that, at least in part, there is an intention to return to the policy of confiscating property and attacking bishops and priests. And the meeting of this precarious new edition of the committee.

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