CONFLICTING reports, none of which can be confirmed by first-hand observation, have been received in Saigon concerning the degree of freedom enjoyed by priests in Communistruled Northern Vietnam.
Some state that a recent decree of the northern Vietnamese government makes it necessary for priests visiting any place outside their habitual residence to apply for a police permit to say Mass. and that European priests attached to one mission were not able to take part in a recent retreat held in Hanoi because of " technical " reasons.
On the other hand. a report sent to Saigon from a priest in Hanoi states that " there is no open persecution of Catholics in Hanoi at
present ". "A retreat for the priests of the Vicariate of Hanoi,the report continues, referring to the retreat mentioned above, " was organised and . , . only about six priests from the Vicariate were unable to attend due to sickness or
distance. About 70 in all made the retreat."
The report mentions that a minor seminary has been set up in Hanoi and that there are so far 200 minor
seminarians. In Hanoi itself. religion instruction courses are organised in three parishes and about 800 people are said to attend adult instruction classes at one of the parishes each week.
The bulk of Vietnam's Catholics. who formerly lived in the north. migrated to the south when the country was divided in 1954. According to recent statistics, only about 250,000 of the 1,480,775 Catholics in the country are now living in the north.
Priests remaining in the north to serve Catholics have been branded as exploiters of the people and forced to work in the fields to gain
their livelihood. Missions have had excessive taxes levied against them. Efforts to subvert Catholics have been made by a small minority of pro-Communist " peace priests.'
On the other hand, Archbishop Dooley, Apostolic Delegate to Vietnam. has not been molested by the Communists in Hanoi. where he is living. Reports have also stated that sonic priests in the north have been able to carry out their work with very little interference from the Communists.