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VATICAN VIETNAM The Pope appoints his "representative" for Vietnam

- Asia News (01/13/2011)

VATICAN VIETNAM : Mgr. Leopoldo Girelli

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A significant step forward in relations
between the Vatican and Vietnam. As Benedict XVI had previously
announced in a speech on Jan. 10 to the diplomatic corps accredited to
the Holy See, as of today there is a "papal representative" for
Vietnam. Mgr. Leopoldo Girelli, until now apostolic nuncio to
Indonesia, was appointed today "apostolic nuncio to Singapore,
Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia and Brunei, and non-resident papal
representative to Vietnam."

Although a "representative" is not a nuncio and there are no full
diplomatic relations, once again there is a papal representative in
Vietnam. There have been no diplomatic relations with the country
since 1975 after the occupation of Saigon, when the Vatican delegate
was forced go to Hanoi. And this despite Paul VI, who in those years
had intervened on several occasions against the American bombing of
the North. Pope Paul VI intervened both publically - with appeals and
in particular letters to President Johnson and the leaders of the two
Vietnams (1967) – as well as on a confidential level for a negotiated

The failure of an attempt to build a Patriotic Church on the Chinese
model – which is still not supported by the Communist Party - and the
Vatican"s slow progress in persuading the government of the benefits
of cooperation with the Catholic Church have allowed, on one had, a
modus vivendi based on government consent of candidates for bishops –
almost denied after unification - and the on other more space for
Catholics to actively take part in society. The current Vietnamese
government attitude is related not only to growing international
pressure, but also to a growing awareness that the Catholic Church can
be helpful in assisting the poor and disabled, in the administration
of kindergartens and health facilities, all tasks theoretically
reserved to state institutions. The Churches important contribution to
"restoring the soul" to a country that is struggling to counter the
phenomena of the pursuit of wealth at all costs and corruption, is
also seen in a positive light.

This does not mean that episodes of repression, if not persecution,
have diminished, given that the government appears to want full
control over Catholics, who represent about 10 percent of the
population. Among the causes, the demands for respect for human rights
and the "confiscation" of land of the Catholic institutions by
authorities, which have grown enormously in value after the choice of
the party to join the market economy. As was the case of the former
apostolic delegation in Hanoi - taken by the authorities in 1959 –
which became a public park in 2008, after tensions and disputes with
the Archbishop and the faithful who demanded its return, which had at
first seemed likely.

Today"s appointment today, which the Pope described in his speech to
diplomats as "satisfying" was reached after a series of visits of
delegations from both parties, the most important being the visit of
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to the Vatican in 2007 and that of
President Nguyen Minh Triet on 11 December 2009 (pictured), the first
time a Vietnamese president had visited the Vatican since 1975.
Moreover June of last year saw the second meeting of the "Joint
Working Group" between Vietnam and the Vatican, which has the official
aim of continuing the process of normalization of diplomatic

Finally, today"s appointment comes in the midst of the Vietnamese
Communist Party Congress. And even if the news has yet to be reported
in the country, from the standpoint of the Holy See, it is an
important step to allow a "normal" life of the Vietnamese Church. But
from another point of view, it may represent a "message" to China.
Beijing and Hanoi have always been very close, in political, military
and economic spheres. And even in Church policies. (FP)
Kompleks Ruko Mega GrosirCempaka Mas Blok N no 21Jl. Letjen Suprapto Jakarta Pusat Telp: 021-42889232Fax: 021-42889233Email:
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