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Vatican delegation arrives in Hanoi to discuss religious freedom and diplomatic relations
by JB. VU
ICC Note: Despite the appearance of taking a step toward religious freedom, it is just that, an appearance.

3/5/07 Vietnam For full story…..(AsiaNews) – Vietnam ’s state-run press reported the arrival in Hanoi of a delegation representing the Holy See to discuss religious freedom and the normalization of diplomatic relations. Newspapers report that the Vatican delegation, led by Undersecretary of State for Relations with States Mgr Pietro Parolin, will work directly with the government and the local Church.

The delegation will also visit a few dioceses, some without bishop like Bắc Ninh in the north Lạng Sơn also in the north near the border with China , and Ban Me Thuat, in the central part of the country.

Discussions will be held with the government’s Religious Affairs Committee.

“We hope that in the future the Church will have a Vatican representative,” Father Joseph, a priest in one of Ho Chi Minh City ’s parishes, told AsiaNews. “Although Hanoi and Rome do not have diplomatic relations Vietnamese Catholics can carry out some religious activities since 1986 when the country opened its doors to economic development and integration into the international community. However, the government still intervenes in the appointment of bishops and sets limits to the number of priests per parish.”

Vietnam ’s Catholics are just under 10 per cent of the total population, some 8 million Catholics out of 84 million.

After 1975 the Communist regime expelled some foreign priests and nuns as well as the Vatican representatives.

The first visit by a Holy See delegation took place in 1990. Now, especially following the Vatican visit by Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, there should be greater space for religious freedom.