Vatican delegation building "diplomatic bridge"

A high level delegation from the Holy See has arrived in Hanoi to begin a week's visit described by the local press as the next important span in the "diplomatic bridge" between Vietnam and the Vatican.

The open publishing online newspaper Ohmynews reports that the visit, which takes place at the invitation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, is led by Vatican Undersecretary of State Pietro Parolin.

During the full week stay in Hanoi, Parolin will hold talks with high-ranking Vietnamese officials in order to reach a roadmap for normalising relations between the two states and to exchange views on issues concerning the Vietnamese Church.

According to local media, the delegation will also meet with the Vietnam Bishops Conference, visit some other Vietnamese agencies and visit some dioceses in the central provinces.

The government approved VTC News website described the visit "as the next important span in the 'diplomatic bridge' between Vietnam and Vatican that has been re-building after the visit by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Vatican this January."

Relations between Vietnam and the Church had been tense for many years, especially after the Vietnam War, when the Vietnamese Communist Party took control of the whole country.

However, over the last few years, the two sides have made great effort toward normalising bilateral relations, especially after the prime minister's visit to the Vatican, which was described by Holy See officials as "a new and important step."

The visit comes despite the recent arrest of a dissident priest, Fr Nguyen Van Ly, and a crackdown yesterday on pro-democracy activists.

BosNewsLife reports that the activists detained by security forces were identified as lawyers Le Thi Cong Nhan and Nguyen Van Dai who have been promoting political and religious rights in the Communist country.

"There whereabouts are unknown. But based on our sources, they are probably incarcerated at B14 prison at Kim Giang village [in] Hanoi," Cong Thanh Do, a prominent political activist and pro-democracy advocate, who is also known as Tran Nam, told BosNewsLife.

He stressed that the two lawyers were in the same situation as Father Van Ly, a Catholic priest who was detained on 18 February on charges of disseminating anti-government propaganda.

Vatican officials will reportedly discuss the case of Fr Van Ly among other topics with Vietnamese officials.

Meanwhile, protests in support of Fr Van Ly are being organised in Canberra and Adelaide by pro-democracy Vietnamese activists.

Vatican Delegation Visits Vietnam (Ohmynews, 6/3/07)
Vietnam Detains Key Activists As Vatican Officials Meet Government (BosNewsLife, 6/3/07)
Vietnamese pro-democracy activists plan overseas rallies (ABC, 3/3/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Vietnamese Government website
Vatican website

Vietnamese democracy priests arrested (CathNews, 21/2/07)
Vietnam Catholics upbeat over PM meeting with Benedict (CathNews, 31/1/07)
Vietnam PM in first Vatican visit (CathNew, 24/1/07)
Cardinals meet in Vietnam "turning point" (CathNews, 6/12/06)
Mother Teresa's order invited to Vietnam (CathNews, 15/11/06)

7 Mar 2007