07/12/2010, 00.00
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Vietnamese Catholics in communist society, amidst progress and discrimination

by J.B. Vu
While the government cements relations with the Holy See, Vietnamese Catholics are working together with fellow Communists for the good of the country. But the Church still suffers discrimination that limits the effectiveness of its mission. Vice president of the bishops: “There are still many internal conflicts among the people, but we can overcome them with mutual understanding, aiming to build the future of the country together.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Vietnam’s six million Catholics are trying to work together with the communist population to build the nation and its society, after centuries of repression and violence. But the Church still suffers discrimination and limitations especially in the areas of education, healthcare and social activities, despite government reassurances of religious freedom.  

Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, bishop of Thanh Hoa and vice president of the Vietnam Bishops' Conference, says: "Catholics live and share their lives with the general population and moved by the Good News and love of their country, they are increasingly seeking a way to reduce tensions".  "Among the population - he adds - there are still many internal conflicts due to the difference of ideologies and political viewpoints, but we can overcome them with mutual understanding, aiming to build the future of the country together."

"The faithful – he continues – say that if these conflicts continue, life will be increasingly difficult. So we need to understand each other even more, overcoming obstacles to the relationship on both sides and which we ourselves have helped to cause. "

On June 28 in Rome, the Vatican and the government agreed to the appointment of a papal representative for Vietnam. The decision was seen as a new possibility for an increase of religious freedom in the country, especially in the Church's participation in the development of Vietnamese society in the area of education and health care and also spiritually.

The decision was met with general approval by Vietnamese Catholics, but it has also created controversy. The papal representative will not reside in Vietnam, but in a third country. Some of the 26 bishops in Vietnam say they have had no voice in the meetings between the Holy See and Hanoi. Some faithful see the decision as undermining the weight of the Vietnamese bishops' conference and maintain that it prevents the Vatican from hearing the true voice of the faithful who live within the society.  

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