06/13/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM – VATICAN
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Working group to discuss diplomatic relations between Hanoi and Holy See

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.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnam and the Holy See have decided to set up a “working group’ to examine the issue of diplomatic relations; once up and running, the group will establish a calendar, Vietnamese VNA news agency reported, which also attributed the initiative to Mgr Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, who will remain in the South East Asian country till Sunday.

In reference to his meeting with government authorities in the last few days during his stay in the Vietnamese capital, Monsignor Parolin, according to the VNA, said that the two sides heard each other out, and closed the gap between their respective positions. “I think that the dialogue is the result itself. We are convinced that both sides will have to find a solution through dialogue, meetings and negotiations.”

With regard to diplomatic relations in particular, the Holy See official said that the parties are moving towards that goal thanks to the visits by Vatican delegations in Vietnam (the current one is the 15th) and the visit in January 2007 in Rome by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, who at the time was received by the Pope. “We agreed to working groups. Once set up, they will establish the calendars.”

On the issue of Vietnam’s religious policy, Monsignor Parolin said governments have a duty to create conditions favourable to the religious activities of their citizens, and that it is an issue of religious freedom.

Nguyên Thê Doanh, who heads the Religious Affairs Committee, defended his government’s religious policy, “conscious that it is a need of the population” and “an objective social fact within the community.”

To back up his views on the treatment of Catholics, he said that in 2007 300 new parishes were created in the country, bringing the total to 3,000, and that six new seminars were opened.

Mr Doanh also stressed the great contribution Catholics have made in various fields, citing the 11 billion dongs (about US$ 650,000) spent on helping people living in difficult situations.

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