02/19/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM - VATICAN
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Talks between Vatican and Hanoi a "basis for further progress"

by JB. Vu
This is the view expressed by Monsignor Pietro Parolin. Full respect for religious freedom seems to remain the central issue for relations between the Holy See and the Vietnamese government. According to some analysts, the government is continuing the talks only in order to show the international community a facade of respect for human rights.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Talks between a Vatican delegation and the government of Hanoi have laid "the basis for further progress" in establishing diplomatic relations, even if it is impossible to guess at a date. The announcement was made today by Monsignor Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, who is heading the Holy See delegation. He also referred to "the explanations made by the Vietnamese delegation on the policy on freedom of religious life in Vietnam," and expressed his hope that "that the remaining unsolved matters in bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Holy See could be settled with goodwill through sincere dialogue."

Respect for religious freedom in Vietnam therefore appears to be the true focal point in relations with the Vatican, although these are now marking the 16th official visit, since 1990, from representatives of the Holy See to Hanoi.

This has been confirmed, indirectly, by Vietnam's deputy foreign minister, Nguyen Quoc Cuong, who in referring to diplomatic relations spoke of "Vietnam’s consistent policy on the freedom of belief," and expressed his hope for "the Holy See’s active contribution to the life of the Catholic community in Vietnam, the strengthening of solidarity between religions and of the entire Vietnamese population, and the practical contributions to national construction."

The faithful of Hanoi and Thai Binh have expressed their "joy if the discussions on diplomatic relations succeed. This demonstrates that we understand each other, and we have more solidarity with one another." "In order to have diplomatic relations, one must listen, have respect, harmony, and mutual trust. This serves the unity of the local Church, with unity we can have peace, justice, and acceptance of one another. We will have cooperation and development if we trust each other."

But there are some who are not demonstrating much hope. "Should you expect to see any improvements in Vatican-Vietnam diplomatic relations in these talks, you would be very disappointed,” Fr. Joseph Nguyen tells VietCatholic News. “For now, nothing relating to diplomatic relations with the Vatican exists in the view of Vietnamese officials. Facing angry reactions against their notorious human rights record, they simply took these meetings as an opportunity to deceive the international community that they are willing to improve religious freedom conditions."

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