Monday, February 09, 2009

Vatican delegation to visit Vietnam

A Vatican delegation is to visit Vietnam Feb. 16-21, in response to an invitation from the Vietnam Foreign Minister. The delegation will be headed by Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Undersecretary of State for Relations with States. Although the purpose of the visit has not been announced, observers speculate that the two parties will discuss diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Vatican. A road map for the relationship was set out in talks in June 2008 between a Holy See delegation and Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem.

The visit comes after a year of rising tensions between the Catholic church and the government of Vietnam over land issues, particularly in Hanoi and also in Saigon and Vinh Long. There is concern that the Vietnam side might pressure the Vatican to remove Hanoi Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, who according to J.B. An Dang has “suffered a long period of virtual house arrest, calculated public defamation campaign by state-controlled media, not to mention public threat of violence and death aimed at him personally,” because of his forthright stand on the Thai Ha parish church property issue.

The issue of dioceses without bishops will also be dicussed, according to J.B. An Dang: “There are numerous dioceses such as Phat Diem, Buon Me Thuot still without a bishop, and there are aging bishops who would like to but cannot retire due to lack of replacement such as bishops of Vinh and Thai Binh dioceses.” This is a chronic problem in Vietnam, due to the requirement for government approval of bishops, and the slowness of the Vietnam government ot issue such approvals.

J.B. An Dang also noted that a Vietnamese Catholic priest who has accompanied the Holy See delegation on previous trips to Vietnam will not be allowed to go this time:

“Msgr. Barnabe Nguyen Van Phuong, a Vietnamese priest, bureau chief at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who has joined the Holy See delegation in previous 15 trips to Vietnam, seems not to be welcomed by Vietnam government. He will be replaced by another priest. This has raised further concerns among Catholics in Vietnam.”

The Holy See delegation will also visit some dioceses and meet with the Vietnam Catholic Bishop conference while in Vietnam.

Source: VietCatholic News Feb. 9.


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