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TUESDAY      October 27, 1998      SECTION TWO       vol 9, no. 210

To print out entire text of Today's issue, print this section as well as SECTION ONE


     Today is the Thirtieth Tuesday in Ordinary Time while tomorrow is the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles. For the readings, liturgies, meditations and vignettes of these saints, click on LITURGY FOR THE DAY.

Tuesday, October 27, 1998

Wednesday, October 28, 1998




      Today's prayer is taken from the Entrance Prayer for Civil Authorities and since we are one week away from election day, we thought we would bring the following:

      O Almighty and Eternal God, all power of governing and the rights of peoples are in Your hand. Look kindly upon those who rule us, so that the integrity of religion and the security of our country may always endure under Your protection. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

with a Catholic slant

provided by Catholic World News Service



      Hanoi ( - The Bishops' Conference of Vietnam has decided to extend an official invitation to Pope John Paul II to visit Vietnam in 1999, asking the Communist government to approve the invitation, according to the Vatican news agency Fides.

      If approved, the Holy Father may visit the country in August 1999, to conclude celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of La Vang. Last March, Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung of Hanoi made an informal request to the government to invite Cardinal Etchegaray for the opening celebrations on the Feast of the Assumption, on August 15, but he was "advised" not to make an official request.

      The decision to invite the Holy Father was reached unanimously by the Bishops' Conference during an October 11-18 meeting in the capital. The bishops have also asked the government whether they may continue to be members of the Federation of Bishops' Conferences (FABC). Any relations with "foreign religious organizations" are in fact subject to government approval. All the activities of the Vietnamese Bishops' Conference are government-approved and controlled, including even the date, place, and order of the day of meetings.

      But there is much work to be done for although the Vietnamese government has promised to institute new policies allowing religious freedom, a new government decree does nothing to lift restraints on religious exercise, according to the Vatican's Fides new agency.

      Government officials in Hanoi readily admit that the current policy restraining religious affairs-- based on a decree issued in 1991-- is unsatisfactory. For some months, the government's Religious Affairs Bureau has been promising a new, more open policy. But when a draft of the new decree appeared in print on October 1, the 38-point document contained nothing new, Fides reported.

      "On careful reading it is clear that this new decree is no different from the previous one, either in contents (it is a decree, not a law) or in its style," Fides reports. The Vatican agency, an affiliate of the Congregation for Evangelization, quotes Vietnamese priests as saying that the only change is in the organization of the document; the new decree sets down government policy on more individual points than the 1991 version, and the October draft covers all religious affiliations, whereas the earlier decree mentioned only Buddhism-- the most popular religion in Vietnam-- explicitly.

      The fundamental point, however, remains unchanged: In Vietnam, all religious activities still require official government approval.

      For Catholics, another source of concern is the new decree's effort to distinguish between a "Vietnamese Catholic Church" and the universal Church. As in China, the government in Vietnam has sought to establish a "patriotic" Catholic association, without ties to the Holy See. The new decree contributes to that cause by saying, "Legal religious organizations within the country must obtain civil authority permission to put into practice religious guidelines coming from foreign religious organizations." Since the Vatican is defined as a "foreign religious organization," the practical effect of this policy is to make it illegal for Vietnamese Catholic bishops to enact policies set by Rome. For the immediate future, that policy will probably prevent Vietnamese Catholics from participating in preparations for the Jubilee Year 2000-- or, at least, from doing so without defying the law and risking arrest.

      The proposed new decree proclaims that religious believers in Vietnam are free to profess their faith, convene public gatherings, print religious literature, and carry out social activities. However, after proclaiming those freedoms, the decree goes on to say that these activities require explicit government approval in every case. As Fides observes, the decree "would seem to be more of a 'trap'-- religious freedom is proclaimed and then withdrawn, secured under the shield of government authority."

      Fides cites three specific areas in which government policies may be more restrictive, despite general claims of freedom:


      RIO DE JANEIRO ( - The brutal murder of a young Brazilian priest has shaken Rio de Janeiro, where the priest was regarded as a champion against drug trafficking and drug consumption. Last Monday, the police found Father Oto Campos Braga, 39, dead inside his car, after he was reported missing late on Sunday.

      Police spokesmen said the priest was repeatedly beaten with stones and sticks and his car was set on fire. Father Braga was attacked on Sunday evening after celebrating a Mass in a slum in Rio.

      Ordained ten years ago, Father Braga was involved in the recovery of drug addicts in his parish of Santo Antonio de Guarus, in the diocese of Campos. His Bishop, Roberto Guimaraes, of Campos, said: "He was a very good man, a devoted pastor and beloved by his people." But, Bishop Guimaraes added that the priest was well known for his strong stance against "some economic interests." In fact, Father Braga stopped a group of vendors from controlling a local religious feast. He also was a strong critic of drug traffickers in the area. The police believe that a local gang of drug traffickers murdered the priest, but investigations are still ongoing.


      VATICAN ( -- Pope John Paul II today held a private audience with the participants in a plenary session of the Congregation for Catholic Education. That session has drawn 60 people to Rome to discuss the educational role of the Church.

      The Pope stressed that the Church's efforts in education must be a high priority, regardless of the "difficulties" caused by "cultural changes" and "new technological forms." He observed that improvements in the field of communications should be helpful to Catholic educators, although he also noted that the new technology has brought some problems, "such as superficiality, the lack of creativity, and fragmentation."

      The role of Catholic education is to provide "a model for man which is unified and complete," the Pope continued. Toward that end, the individual's faculties should be developed in harmony, leading him "toward contemplation and truth."

      The Pope thanked the members of the Congregation for their own contributions to the educational process, giving special attention to the needs of seminaries and Catholic universities. He urged religious institutions to devote themselves to the educational work which is "so urgent and essential for the future of the world and the Church."


      VATICAN ( -- On Saturday, October 24, Pope John Paul II accepted the diplomatic credentials of Jean Gueguinou, the new ambassador of France to the Holy See.

      In his remarks to the French diplomat, the Pope mentioned the needs of the family and of Catholic schools, and the government's policies regarding immigrants and resident aliens, as well as the more general need for world peace and diplomatic resolution of conflicts.

      The Pope also spoke of the principle of secularity which governs relations between France and the Holy See. While recognizing the need to keep the government removed from questions of religious faith, he pointed out, this principle nonetheless does not eliminate the need for a religious perspective, nor does it even militate against "the acceptance of a religious dimension in the national patrimony." The proper separation of church and state, he concluded, is a recognition that religious practice is a private affair; it does not exclude the possibility that government should recognize the positive contributions of faith in the life of society.

      After remarking on the need to protect family life and to allow parents to obtain a Catholic education for their children, the Pope next turned to the issue of immigration. "France has a tradition of social conviviality, openness, respect, and welcome," he said. He expressed the hope that France would continue that tradition by recognizing immigrants as "above all, our brothers."

For more headlines and articles, we suggest you go to the Catholic World News site. CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.


"A man may conceal hatred under dissimulation, but his malice will be revealed in the assembly. "

Proverbs 26: 26

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October 27, 1998 volume 9, no. 210   DAILY CATHOLIC