DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     March 18, 1999     vol. 10, no. 54

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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VATICAN DELEGATION IN TALKS WITH VIETNAM WHILE UN ENVOY SAYS VIETNAM STILL TOO RESTRICTIVE OF RELIGION

          VATICAN (CWNews.com) - A delegation from the Vatican is in Hanoi this week, continuing talks with the government of Vietnam.

          Msgr. Celestino Migliore is the head of the Vatican diplomatic mission, which is seeking to strengthen relations with the Vietnamese government and at the same time expand the freedoms of Vietnamese Catholics. His delegation has met with members of the government commission charged with supervising religious affairs, and with the foreign ministry.

          The Vatican representatives are pressing the government to accept the bishops named by the Holy See—a topic which has produced several conflicts in recent years, and left major sees without a bishop for months when the government has rejected a Vatican nominee. But this week’s discussions will also explore the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations between Hanoi and the Holy See.

          The possibility of diplomatic ties was first mentioned by the Vietnamese foreign minister. While Vatican officials are reacting cautiously, there has been some speculation in Rome that the precarious political position of the Hanoi regime may be forcing the government to take a more open posture toward foreign contacts.

          In a related story out of Geneva, a UN special envoy to Vietnam on religion said in his report on Tuesday that while the Communist government has lifted some restrictions on the practice of religion, they still have much work to do to ensure real religious freedom.

          Abdelfattah Amor said the government's tight control over religion was intended to prevent the emergence of any group that might become a rival to the Communist Party in controlling the population. "Religion appears as an instrument of policy rather than a component of society ... something which is ultimately contrary to freedom of religion or belief as governed by international law," said Amor, who visited the country last October. The report will be presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights when it opens its six-week session on Monday.

          The majority of Vietnamese are Buddhist, but there are also many Catholics -- from the country's days as a French colony -- as well as Protestants, Muslims, and smaller sects. "The current situation of the religious communities, in which circumscribed areas of freedom are emerging within a general framework of controls ... appears to be valid for all religious denominations," Amor said.

          He added that since 1990, the government has made some positive changes, moving away from "an anti-religious policy towards the authorization, within a framework that is well defined ... by authorities, of religious practice and the building of places of worship."


Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales. Both CWN and NE are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

March 18, 1999       volume 10, no. 54
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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