Page 2, 27th February 1998

27th February 1998
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Page 2, 27th February 1998 — Rome bid to soften Hanoi hard line
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Rome bid to soften Hanoi hard line

Vatican delegation in discussions with Vietnam

BY BRUCE JOHNSTON IN ROME A VATICAN delegation has arrived in Hanoi this week for consultations with Church and state authorities over what the Holy See has called "problems concerning the Catholic Church in Vietnam."

The Church in Vietnam has been having trouble with the authorities on and off since 1975, when priests were sent to re-education camps, and the government began trying to control the naming of bishops and to create a "People's Church."

Although relations improved in the mid-1980s, another dispute arose in 1988 over a Vatican decision to canonise 96 Vietnamese martyrs. Now, despite a reported improvement in relations between the Church and the south-east Asian state since 1992, the Vatican is reporting new difficulties.

These include censorship of the publication of the Catechism, and obstacles being put in the way of plans to send Vietnamese bishops to the Asian Synod in the spring.

In addition, "signs of hardening" in general against Vietnam's Catholics, who nine years ago were put at 4,570,0000 more than in any other country in Indochina have been reported.

The Vatican delegation, which arrived in Hanoi on Tuesday, will be in Vietnam for a week for talks with government officials and to visit bishops in their diocese.

In a preparatory document for the Asian Synod which is to take place in the Vatican from April 16 to April 19, bishops analysing the present-day situation in Asia have included sex tourism involving women and minors as one of the conti nent's principal ills, along with poverty and constant threats to human life.

1111EuRom's BISHOPS should see the Holy Year 2000 as an opportunity for ever greater ecumeni cal efforts, the Pope said last Friday. "May Europe be the crucible of an ever more intense search for unity among the C:hristians of the continent," the Holy Father said.




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