Sunday, July 30, 2023

Holy See and Viet Nam agree on a permanent Vatican representative in Ha Noi

Viet Nam and the Holy See have inked an agreement on the status of a permanent Resident Papal Representative and office in the Southeast Asian country, this according to a joint statement released Thursday afternoon by the Holy See at the end of the visit to the Vatican by Vietnamese President Võ Văn Thưởng, who met Pope Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.

The agreement, which allows the Holy See to have a permanent envoy in Ha Noi, the Vietnamese capital, represents  a qualitative leap forward in bilateral relations, after years of negotiations.

The Holy See already had a representative for Viet Nam, Archbishop Marek Zalewski, but he is nuncio in Singapore, authorised by the Vietnamese government to make visits to the country.

The agreement officially announced today will soon lead to the reopening of a Vatican representation in the country almost 50 years after the expulsion of the apostolic delegate to Viet Nam decreed by the communist regime in 1975.

In the press release, “the two sides expressed high appreciation for the noteworthy progress in the relations between Viet Nam and the Holy See, and the positive contributions by the Catholic community of Viet Nam thus far.”

“Both sides expressed their confidence that the Resident Papal Representative will fulfill the role and mandate given in the Agreement, provide support to the Vietnamese Catholic community in their undertakings in the spirit of the law and, always inspired by the Magisterium of the Church, to fulfill the vocation of ‘accompanying the nation’ and to be ‘good Catholics and good citizens’, and contribute to the development of the country, while the Representative will be a bridge to advance relations between Viet Nam and the Holy See.”

Interesting is the explicit reference in the communiqué of the vocation to be "good Catholics and good citizens”.

Many times, this issue has emerged in the discussions between the Holy See and China, over the level of loyalty that must be expected from Chinese Catholics towards their homeland as opposed to “foreign influences”.

It remains a serious bone of contention for the Communist Party of China, which has always insisted, through the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, on the principle of the "autonomy" for Chinese Catholics.

in his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics, Benedict XVI had already excluded any possible misunderstanding in this regard, stressing that the Church teaches the faithful to be good citizens in their own country, but asks the authorities not to hinder matters that concern the faith and discipline of the Church.

It is worth remembering that “the opening of a permanent Holy See liaison office in China" – like the one agreed upon today with Viet Nam – is one of the demands made publicly to the People's Republic of China by the Vatican Secretary of State, Card Pietro Parolin, in a recent interview with Vatican media in which he commented Pope Francis’s decision to heal the canonical rift created by Beijing when it appointed Joseph Shen Bin as bishop of Shanghai.