11/13/2012, 00.00
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Vietnam-Holy See relations, a model for China-Vatican talks

by J.B. Vu
The establishment of a joint working group and the appointment of a (non-resident) representative opened up diplomatic channels. They could serve as an example to Beijing, which has so far failed to heed Chinese Catholics' pleas. Last week, Vietnamese and Vatican officials met.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The new relationship between the Holy See and Vietnam can be a model of dialogue and exchange for China. It can help Beijing lay new bases for diplomatic channels with the Holy See. In fact, in the past few years, Vietnam and the Holy See have held many meetings, set up a joint working group and agreed on a (non-resident) Vatican representative to the Asia nation, who was able to visit all of the country's 26 dioceses. It is hoped that China will be open to talks, end its systematic control over worship, and allow full religious freedom to Chinese Catholics. Pope Benedict XVI had written a letter to them in 2007, which China's Chinese government ignored.

In recent article in Tripod Magazine, a quarterly journal published by the diocese of Hong Kong, Card Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples (Propaganda Fide), proposed the establishment of a joint China-Holy See working group along the lines of that between Vietnam and the Vatican, which shares information and discusses issues and activities in favour of the people, the Church and the nation. The Vietnam-Vatican Joint Working Group provided the opportunity to both sides to engage in dialogue and understand each other.

The progress in the talks between Holy See and Vietnam was met with the appreciation of many Vietnamese and foreign scholars. The last time the two sides got together was on 26-27 February 2012, in Hanoi. According to the joint statement issued on that occasion, discussions focused on the activities of the joint working group and on the appointment of a Vatican representative to Vietnam.

Mgr Leopoldo Girelli, appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 as a non-resident pontifical representative to Vietnam, played a critical role in the meeting. Since then, he has been able to visit all of the country's dioceses, meet thousands of priests and millions of Catholics, sharing the joy and sorrow of the local Church.

Last week, Interpol, which coordinates international police cooperation, held its 81st General Assembly in Rome. A Vietnamese delegation, which included members of the Religious Affairs Committee and the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, attended the event.

During its stay in Italy on 4-9 November, the delegation met Propaganda Fide Secretary Mgr Monsignor Savio Hon Tai-Fai and Undersecretary for Relations with States Mgr Ettore Balestrero.

The Vietnamese guests also visited Rome's Bambin Gesù Hospital, which cooperates with a hospital in Hanoi.

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