On the 19th of December 2018, there will take place the seventh meeting of the Joint Working Group of the Holy See – Vietnam. The meeting aims to deepen and develop bilateral relations. Pending diplomatic relations provide for a “non-permanent” nuncio. Issues related to ecclesiastical properties and religious freedom are more delicate as are issues for human rights in Viet Nam.
In giving this news today, a statement by the director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, reads that “the meeting aims to deepen and develop bilateral relations, following what was agreed at the end of the sixth meeting of the Working Group , held in the Vatican in October 2016, and, subsequently, on the occasion of the visit of SE Mr. Hà Kim Ngoc, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam at the Vatican in August 2017 and of that of Msgr. Camilleri in Ha Noi in January 2018, as well as the recent visit of S.E. Mr. Truong Hoà Binh, First Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, last October 20th to the Vatican when he was received in audience by His Holiness Pope Francis “.
“During its stay in Vietnam, from the 18th to the 20th December, the Delegation will also meet the Bishops of the country who will be present in Ha Noi to take part in the Holy Mass to mark the taking possession of his Episcopal seat by Reverend Joseph Vu Van Thien, new Metropolitan Archbishop of Hanoi “.
The Vatican note does not indicate what the issues under discussion will actually be. A modus vivendi has existed for many years between the Holy See and Vietnam on the nominations of the bishops: the Vatican indicates the candidates and the government indicates who they prefer. In the past the Vatican delegation was led by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, current Secretary of State.
This is pending diplomatic relations, currently stopped at a formula that provides for a “non-permanent” nuncio. More sensitive are issues related to ecclesiastical properties that the government does not recognize, according to the rule by which all lands in Vietnam are state-owned. Another “sensitive” issue is related to religious freedom.
Vietnamese Catholics look with concern at the new year, when the new law on cyber security will come into force. In fact, under this guise, there are rules that require social network providers, such as Google and Facebook, to cede their users’ data to Vietnamese state servers. Furthermore, it is forbidden for Internet users to organize themselves with “anti-state purposes”, to use a language that “distorts history” or “denies the revolutionary aims of the nation”. In this perspective there is a strong concern for Catholic contents that risk being banned, as they are not in praise of the “conquests” of the socialist revolution. “Users,” said Paul Van Chi, spokesman for the Federation of Vietnamese Catholic mass media, told AsiaNews, ” must reduce their activities on the internet, for fear of being tried.” “The provisions of the Information Security Act, in fact, could make it easier for the government to identify and prosecute people for their peaceful online activities.”
The last visit of a representative of the Holy See to Vietnam was at the beginning of this year. On this occasion, Msgr. Antoine Mons. Camilleri, Undersecretary for Relations with States, expressed to the Vietnamese Prime Minister the greetings and best wishes of Pope Francis to the country and to the people, sharing the Pope’s good impression of the dialogue between faith and Vietnamese culture. “The Holy See is committed to promoting relations with the Government of Vietnam to further contribute to the social life of the country, especially in the fields of education, health and charity. I affirm that the Holy Father always watches Vietnam with special attention. Pope Francis also wants the Church of Vietnam to always accompany and contribute to the prosperity of the nation. The Vatican expresses its gratitude to the government for having created valid conditions for the non-resident papal representative to work in Vietnam “.