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Vietnamese bishops surprised by Vatican move toward diplomatic ties

Catholic World News - July 02, 2010

Vietnamese bishops were surprised by the Vatican’s announcement earlier this week that it would appoint a “non-resident representative” to Hanoi. Local Church leaders seemed bewildered by the move, and unsure what to expect.

“I’m really confused,” said Father Jean Baptiste Huynh Cong Minh, an assistant to Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City, “because this morning when I met with the cardinal he seemed to know nothing about the move either.”

Many Vietnamese Catholics were surprised in April when the Vatican appointed a coadjutor archbishop of Hanoi, and soon thereafter accepted the resignation of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet. The move, they feared, seemed to signal an accommodation with the Hanoi regime, which had been sharply critical of the outgoing archbishop.

Vietnamese Church officials expressed concern that the Vatican was taking action without consulting local Catholic leaders. “We expect that in everything relating to Vietnam, even it relates only to the Vietnam government, we live in Vietnam, we should be informed and involved,” said Father Huynh.?Echoing the concern of many that the Vietnamese government’s direct conduit to Rome might have the effect of weakening the local bishops, who have often clashed with the government on issues involving the freedom to worship and the control of properties owned by the Church but seized by the Communist regime, the cardinal’s assistant expressed his desire that “there would be means to allow bishops in Vietnam to have a direct say in Vatican” on issues relating to the life of the Church in the country.”

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