Clinton meets Vietnamese Catholic bishop
US President Bill Clinton held a previously unannounced meeting with the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday, two days after issuing a call for religious freedom in Vietnam.
Catholic World News reports that Clinton met with Archbishop Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man on the final day of his visit to Vietnam, the first by a US president since the end of the Vietnam War.
"The president sought the opportunity to meet him and to have the opportunity to talk about what he is doing and the problems that he is facing in helping the church develop within Vietnamese society," a US official said. "The Catholic Church is a major institution in this society. Obviously we do believe in universal right of citizens to speak freely, to worship."
There are about six million Catholics in Vietnam, the second-largest Catholic community in Southeast Asia after the Philippines. The Communist government strictly controls religion in the country, requiring that all appointments of bishops be approved by the government, among other restrictions.
On Friday, Clinton told students at Hanoi National University in a nationally televised speech that "guaranteeing the rights to religious worship and the right to political dissent does not threaten the stability of a society." In September, the US State Department had included Vietnam in a list of countries that restrict religious freedom.