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Holy See and Vietnam to upgrade ties

HANOI (UCAN): Vatican and Vietnamese officials have agreed to upgrade relations through the appointment in the near future of a permanent papal representative to Hanoi. The agreement was reached during an 18 to 20 December 2018 visit by a Vatican delegation led by Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, under-secretary for Relations with States. 
The delegation included Archbishop Marek Zalewski, non-resident pontifical representative to Vietnam, as well as senior Vietnamese bishops.
The Vietnamese delegation was led by deputy foreign minister, Bui Thanh Son.
One of the aims of the talks was to help resolve bitter disputes over confiscated Church properties.
Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu, head of the Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam, said in a statement that two sides “agreed to take detailed steps to raise their diplomatic relationships from the level of non-resident envoy to resident envoy to Vietnam.”
The Vatican has sent a non-resident pontifical representative to Vietnam since 2011. Archbishop Zalewski is the second.
Some Church sources said that the former facilities and properties that were confiscated by the government constituted ongoing obstacles to improving bilateral ties. The communist government has appropriated Church-run schools, hospitals, churches and other facilities.
The Holy See wants Vietnam to return all former Church properties while the government only envisages returning a few.
Sources said that during their talks, both delegations also approved episcopal candidates for the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City and the Diocese of Phan Phiet.
The episcopal see of Ho Chi Minh City has been vacant since Archbishop Paul Bui Van Doc died in March, while Phan Phiet has been vacant since Bishop Joseph Vu Duy Thong died in 2017.
Sources said the Vatican and Vietnam agreed to create a new diocese which will be separated from the Diocese of Vinh in north central Vietnam and counts more than 550,000 Catholics in three provinces.
Father Vu said that during their three-day visit to Vietnam, the Vatican delegates also met with prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and officials from the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, which controls all religious organisations in the country.
He said the visitors met with Vietnamese bishops and attended the installation of the newly-elected Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi (Sunday Examiner, 30 December 2018).

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