ON the eve of the death of President Ngo Dinh Diem, a U.S. Congressional Study Mission, reporting in Washington on its visit to Vietnam, has cleared that country's Catholic community of responsibility for the crisis of the past few months.
Led by Representative Clement Zablocki, the eight-man team testified that : 1, They found no evidence that there had been any religious persecution of the Buddhists.
2. It is wrong to describe the Diem administration as "Catholic" (less than 25 per cent of those involved were Catholics), and the disturbances in no way stemmed from Catholicism.
3. The Buddhist issue began as a lawful protestover religious issues not amounting to persecution, but became an umbrella for a variety of political opposition movements.
4. Ngo Dinh Diem's regime was authoritarian and open to considerable blame, but it must be said in fairness that many of the stern measures taken were a result of the internal hot war against the Communist Viet Cong.
5. Whatever his faults. there is no evidence that Diem was ever motivated by a desire for personal gain for that of his family.
In Ceylon, a leading Buddhist. Boyagama Dhammaaratna Maha Nayakc Thera. has declared that no self-respecting Buddhist should blame Catholics as such for the troubles in Vietnam.
Correspondents in Saigon report that, right to the end, the Vietnamese people retained a residue of personal affection for Ngo Dinh Diem. in spite of the bitterness against his near relatives who acquired so much ascendancy over him latterly.
It is recalled that he broke the power of the religious-military sects. won the military and economic aid of the U.S., absorbed 1,000,000 refugees from the Cornmunist north, created new industry and agricultural communities, and was on the way to success against the Communist guerillas, particularly with the help of his fortified hamlets.
When last week's revolt occurred, Pope Paul, who has consistently urged the Ngo Dinh Diem regime to safeguard Buddhist rights. sent a telegram of sympathy to Saigon's Archbishop Paul Nguyen van Birth, without mentioning the overthrow of the President specifically.