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VATICAN-VIETNAM Mar-12-2007 (480 words) xxxi

Vatican: Vietnam working on full diplomatic relations with Holy See

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The government of Vietnam is working on a concrete plan to establish full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, a delegation of Vatican officials was told.

Msgr. Pietro Parolin, Vatican undersecretary of state, led the three-member delegation to Vietnam March 5-11 for meetings with officials of the central government, local governments, bishops' conference and the dioceses of Quy Nhon, Kontum and Hai Phong.

The Vatican press office release a statement about the visit March 12.

While the delegation brought the prayers and blessing of Pope Benedict XVI, Vietnamese Catholics demonstrated their "deep affection, filial attachment and fidelity" to the pope along with their hopes "that the pope himself could one day make a pastoral visit to the country," the Vatican statement said.

The delegation's visit to Vietnam came two months after Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met with Pope Benedict at the Vatican.

Pope Benedict raised the problem of continued restrictions on Catholic life in the country, but the two leaders also discussed the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations.

The March 12 statement said diplomatic relations were discussed in meetings with the government's vice minister for foreign affairs, the vice president of the Communist Party's committee for foreign affairs and the president of the National Assembly's committee for foreign affairs.

The Vietnamese officials "gave assurances that, on the instruction of the prime minister, the competent offices already are at work," and the officials and members of the Vatican delegation looked at "some concrete ways to begin the process of establishing diplomatic relations," the statement said.

Neither the Vietnamese government nor the Vatican has provided a timetable for the exchange of ambassadors.

The delegation also held several working sessions with the religious affairs committee in "an atmosphere of cordiality, frankness and respect," the statement said.

In addition to discussing specific provisions in Vietnamese law regarding religious life, the delegation discussed candidates Pope Benedict wanted to nominate as bishops, the statement said.

The Vietnamese government continues to insist on approving the candidates before the pope names them officially.

The delegation also expressed the Vatican's hope that the government would allow Vietnamese Catholics "to contribute to the spread of moral values, especially regarding the education of youth at a moment of rapid social and economic changes," and would permit Catholics to exercise their obligation of charity and concern for the weakest members of society, the statement said.

Official Vatican delegations have been traveling to Vietnam almost every year since 1990 for similar meetings with central government authorities and to visit the Vietnamese dioceses. With the 2007 visits to Quy Nhon and Kontum, which had never hosted a Vatican delegation before, each of the Vietnamese dioceses has been visited.


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