Msgr. Leopoldo Girelli for Religious Freedom in Vietnam: 'It is a right, not a concession'
by Quoc Tuan

The Holy See has repeatedly reaffirmed the will to contribute "to the common good of society". There are numerous cases of aggression and threats to priests and faithful throughout the country. The 'judicial persecution' of Catholic activists. 

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - "Religious freedom is not something in the hands of the authorities, but it is a right in the hands of people, ” says Msgr. Leopoldo Girelli, a non-resident Pontifical Representative in Vietnam.  He was speaking during the Mass that opened the 31st edition of the pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of La Vang, organized by the archdiocese of Huế (central province of Thừa Thiên Huế) August 13 to 18 last.

Engaged in dialogue with the Vietnamese authorities in order to implement relations between the two sides, the Holy See has repeatedly confirmed the will of the Catholic Church to "contribute to the common good of society, and to transmit and implement the constant teachings of the Popes in this regard". Nonetheless, there are numerous cases of aggression and threats to priests and faithful throughout the country, at the hands of plain clothes police or thugs hired by local authorities. Because of their commitment to social justice, Catholics are often subject to judicial persecution of the regime, which is intended to silence any voice of dissent.

During the Mass at La Vang shrine last August, attended by more than 100,000 faithful, Msgr. Girelli reiterated that "many people in the world want religious freedom in Vietnam to be more respected and implemented". "The local Catholic Church must be seen as a source of 'good' rather than a 'problem' for the country," said the Archbishop. Pope Benedict XVI, nominated him as a non-resident papal representative in 2011, and he is greatly beloved by Vietnamese Catholics for his works in favor of the poorest, Catholic and non-Catholics. Together with Msgr. Joseph Đinh Đức Đạo, bishop of the diocese of Xuân Lộc, last May 15, Msgr. Girelli visited the poor families of the parish of Bầu Cối, bringing comfort and charity spirit (photo).

On September 13, the Holy See appointed the Archbishop apostolic nuncio to Israel and apostolic delegate for Jerusalem and Palestine. The young Catholics of the archdiocese of Sai Gòn share with AsiaNews a memory of Msgr. Girelli. "We still have in mind the image of this shepherd during visits to poorer communities, disabled people, and children who live in difficult conditions. He was attentive not only to Catholics, but also people of different denominations, "they say.