Vietnam Catholics upbeat over PM meeting with Benedict
Hanoi Cardinal Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet says that last weekend's meeting between Pope Benedict and the Vietnam Prime Minister is a positive sign while a Government official hails warming relations between the two states as "a model for other countries to follow".
UCA News reports that Church leaders are also very hopeful for a brighter future for the Church.
After speaking with Pope Benedict in the Pope's private library at his Vatican residence, Dung led his delegation for a separate meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.
According to the report, the prime minister praised Vietnam's Catholic community as "dynamic and patriotic," saying his government attaches much importance to relations with the Vatican.
AsiaNews also quoted another government official named Tran who said that for Vietnamese Catholics it "would be a dream come true to have a Vatican diplomat in the country who could promote our culture and solidarity between people."
Vietnam Television also praised the Vatican for warmly welcoming the Vietnamese delegation even though "the two parties have not established diplomatic relations."
It quoted Le Cong Phung, a member of the delegation, as saying the Vatican appreciated Vietnam's Catholic community and his government's religious policies, which "may be a model for other countries to follow."
He also noted that in the past, the Vatican had criticised Vietnam for its religious policies, but "this time the Pope and the Cardinal did not give any criticism of our policies."
Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi told UCA News that the meeting "is a positive sign" of improving relations. Asked if there were barriers to normalisation of relations, the Vietnamese Church leader said both parties "have conservative views."
Some Catholics, he explained, do not want the Holy See to establish diplomatic ties with Vietnam, because they view their country as lacking complete religious freedom. At the same time, some conservative communists see diplomatic ties with the Vatican as unnecessary, because the country does not gain economic benefits from it, he added.
Nonetheless, Archbishop Kiet said he believes the majority of Vietnamese support the establishment of diplomatic ties with the Holy See, seeing it as something "good and constructive."
Regarding the situation in Vietnam since the Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions took effect in November 2004, Archbishop Kiet told UCA News that local Church activities take place "more easily in urban areas than in rural areas."
He observed that in some remote areas, Catholics are still not allowed to build churches or gather for prayer, and priests from other places are prevented from coming to celebrate Mass.
Vietnam Bishops Laity Committee head, Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Thanh Hoa told UCA News that it is too early to tell when diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the Holy See might materialise, but he expressed confidence they "will surely come."
"Surely local Catholics will have more freedom to hold religious activities, and the government's religious policies will be more open," he commented.
Government, Church Leaders Appreciate Vatican-Vietnam Meeting (UCA News, 30/10/07)
For Catholics, diplomatic relations between Hanoi and the Holy See would be a �dream come true� (CathNews, 30/1/07)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Nguyen Tan Dung (BBC)
Catholic Church in Vietnam (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Vietnam PM in first Vatican visit (CathNew, 24/1/07)
France no longer Catholic, survey reveals (CathNews, 12/1/07)
Cardinals meet in Vietnam "turning point" (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Mother Teresa's order invited to Vietnam (CathNews, 15/11/06)
31 Jan 2007