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Fears that Hanoi ’s opening to the Vatican only a maneuver
by Nguyen Tan Dung

ICC Note: Here are the latest developments for the Catholics in Vietnam

2/22/07 Vietnam For full story…..(AsiaNews) – Catholic circles in Vietnam are concerned that Hanoi’s favourable view towards establishing diplomatic relations with the Holy See, expressed for instance in Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng’s January 25 visit to the Vatican, may simply reflect a desire to increase foreign investments in the country as well as a divide and rule strategy that would pit Catholics against other religions and against one another.

“Perhaps,” said Father Paul, “ Hanoi thinks that relations with the Vatican are like those with any other state. They are considering what advantages they can get. They are engaged in a political operation but not in favour of Vietnamese Catholics.”

“The prime minister,” noted Franciscan Father John, “cannot do differently from the ways of the Communist Party. Catholics have always been opposed by the regime.”

Mr Hung, a Hanoi doctor, said the government has just released a white paper on The Law of Religions, a document in the service of the government rather than the people.

“Their propaganda in favour of religious freedom in Vietnam is designed to get more foreign investment to develop the economy and stabilise their power,” he said.

“I was really surprised when I heard that the government wants to establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican . Whilst the Vietnamese Bishops’ Council cannot make any decisions, the Communist Party and its Religious Affairs Committee can,” he added.

“The government is deliberately trying to pit Catholics against other believers,” a young man told AsiaNews. “They would also like to split Catholics, especially the bishops. This way, government officials, agencies and party members can say that Catholics are divided.”

“ Vietnam ’s Catholics and people in general need religious freedom,” said Ms Hang, a woman from Phat Diem. “We are still discriminated and oppressed, but we are always capable to maintain our faith.”