More steps in the relationship between Vietnam and Vatican


   On morning, January 10th 2011, in the meeting with representatives of 181 countries and territories which have diplomatic relations with the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI deal with the situation in Vietnam said: "I want to raised and expressed satisfaction with the government of Vietnam who has agreed to assign a representative of the visits that it will be the concern of St. Phero to the beloved Catholic community of this country."
 On January 13th 2011, the official Vatican appointed Archbishop Girelli Leopold - 58 ages - Italian who is currently the nuncio in Indonesia as a non-permanent representative of the Vatican in Vietnam. Before this event, on Asia dated on February 3rd 2011 of the journalist Roberto Tofani written "God and State draw closer in Vietnam" On this occasion, we look at the relationship of Vietnam - Vatican in the past both in terms of Church and State together.
1 – The relationship between Vietnam and Vatican on the Church
The Catholic Church always define the identity as a global union organization and unique. Therefore we can say, when there is the Vietnamese Catholics appeared the Vietnam-Vatican relations in religion (1). When the number believers of Vietnam more and more crowded, the attention of the Vatican also increases. The first person is interested in this matter who is Alexandre de Rhodes (Dac Lo). After some time a missionary in Vietnam, on June - 1649 he traveled to Rome and the Vatican suggested a few bishops appointed to Vietnam and would be ordained to allow indigenous people fear foreign missionaries will be expelled out. Three works of Father Dac Lo are "History of Đàng Ngoài (North of the Gianh River)", "eight days lectures", "Dictionary of Vietnam – Portugal -Latinh" was funded and published in 1650 – 1651 in Roma by the Missionary Congregation of the Holy See. It showed the Vatican's attention to new land in East Asia. On September, 9th 1659 Rome appointed 2 bishops, Pallu took care of Đàng Ngoài in Vietnam, Laos and South China. And Bishop Lambert de la Motte took care of Đàng Trong (South of The Gianh River in morden – day Quang Bình province), Champa, Chenla, Cambodia and Thailand. It is worthy noting when appointed two bishops, the Vatican also approved the Monita (qualified as missionaries) to guided and cheered for the integration of cultural activities, most likely to until now: "Do you do not ever want to edit, not find any reason to force people to modify the etiquette, customs, and manners of them unless it's obvious conflict with the sacred and moral. What's reasonable more ridiculous and shameful brought all of France, Spain, Italy or any other countries of Eruopean to the East Asia? "(2).
 An important milestone of the relationship between the Vatican and the Vietnamese Catholic Church was on November 24th 1960 Pope John XXIII issued Ordiance on the establishment of Vietnamese Catholics titles, upgraded 16 bishops’ offices (now called diocese) in three provinces of Vietnam from “quasi-offices” to “authentic-offices”. Today, the number of dioceses in Vietnam is 26 (in total 2400 worldwide dioceses).
According to the Vatican's missionary experience, to be successful and to avoid discrimination of indigenous peoples, the ordination of bishops, priests to local people should be treated as top priority. But the prejudices of the foreign missionaries this process should be very slow. Until 1668, there were 4 new Vietnamese priests and 400 years after the missionary, there has new Vietnamese bishop (Bishop Nguyen Ba Tong - 1933). A long time, the Vietnamese Catholic Church is operated by foreign missionaries. When Nguyen Ai Quoc met Priest Cao Van Luan in Paris in 1946, he said: "In the Vietnamese Catholic Church did not have independent. There were 15 dioceses in all country but only two dioceses took care by the Vietnamese bishops, and all other dioceses took care by the foreigners. I thought that the young priest like him who must act in an order with us, demanded independence for Vietnam "(3). It was also ponderable of Mr. Nguyen Truong To – a reformer from earlier century. He offered: "Last year, I had talked with the Infantry and the household on the occasion of go to the Occident, suggested that the Pope should get out the French clergies and to took care completely religious by our clergies"(4). This can only be implemented after the country's independence and the religion’s freedom. The number of Vietnamese bishops is now nearly 100, including 5 bishops who have been knighted Cardinal (after 1975). Many bishops also was appointed to the Vatican Curia as Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan is Minister of Committee for Justice and Peace (1998 - 2002), or bishop Vu Duy Thong is a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture ( 2005), Archbishop Nguyen Nhu The is a member of inter-religious dialogue Council (2000), Cardinal Pham Minh Man is a member of the Committee immigrants of the Holy (2011) ... A person is knighted archbishop, envoy of the Holy in Benin and Togo (Africa) as Bishop Nguyen Van Good, who was named a bishop in the United States as Bishop Mai Thanh Luong (in Orange, Cali) ... This prove that the Catholic Church in Vietnam has grown and clergy have been trusted not only domestically but internationally too.
To strengthen relationship between the Vatican Curia and the Vietnamese Church, Vatican appointed not only the Vietnamese bishops to govern the diocese but also envoys (Legat) on behalf of the Pope to visit Vietnam on the mourning, a happy occasion or observing the local situation as envoy's visit – bishop Lecroart (bishop in China) to Vietnam in 1923 to consider the establishment nunciature in Hue, or Cardinal R. Etchagaray was appointed as envoy to attend the funeral of Cardinal Trinh Van Can on May 1990, Cardinal Ivan Dias as an envoy presided over the closing ceremony Jubilee 2010 at La Vang on January 6th 2011… Sometimes, the envoy is the Vietnamese. For example, Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung is the envoy of Pope John Paul II, presided at the opening ceremony celebrating 200 years Our Lady of La Vang (1998), Cardinal Pham Minh Man as envoy presided over the funeral of Cardinal Pham Dinh Tung (2009)...
 For countries with conditions, Vatican often built up nunciature (Delegat) to represent the Holy at the local level. In our country, in 1921, Nguyen Huu Bai is not only Minister of Home Affairs but also Catholics, Khai Dinh's escorted through France, arrived in Rome and requested Vatican established representatives to prevent the French from the Vietnamese Church contact with the Vatican. He has also donated land and raised funds to build nunciature in Hue (the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty). In the Apostolic Letter issued on May 20th 1925, the Vatican has set "the nunciature in Indochina and Thailand". The first nuncio is Archbishop Ayuti Constantino. After arriving in Hanoi, he wrote to thank Mr. Nguyen Huu Bai – Minister of Home Affairs (thượng thư bộ lại): "I am grateful to him for suggestions donated for the Holy a worthy house, used as headquarters for the envoy in Indochina. Nice gesture was not for this humble man, but a treasure offered to the Pope. So on behalf of the Pope I am pleased to represent here, I would write thank him sincerely "(5). This envoy died on January 27th 1928 when he rest in Dalat and it is rumored that he was poisoned because the French do not like him who is nationality Italian! This is difficult to verify but the envoy followed by Bishop French nationality Colomban Dreyer (1928-1936). Nunciature was moved to Hanoi in 1951, respectively, with 8 the envoys work at Vietnam since 1925. The final envoy Bishop Henri Lemaître left Vietnam on July 27th 1975 Envoy John Dooley (1950-1960), who summoned the bishops in Indochina meeting at Hanoi to the common letter 1951, fierce condemnation of communism.
 To the Vietnamese Catholic Church, every year there are reports on the local church. The bishops as ordained must pledge loyalty to the Pope and the legal successors. According to canonical, every 5 years, the bishops have gone Roma to visit the grave of the two apostles Phero and Paulo as well as reports on the local church (to Ad Limina). In 1980, it’s the first year that it has the most Vietnamese bishops to Ad Limina, divided into two groups, the Northern leaded by Cardinal Trinh Van Can, the southern leaded by Archbishop Nguyen Van Binh.
 The Vietnamese Church is increasingly promoting foreign activities. Many bishops to attend international activities, as Vatican Community II (1962-1965), the International Council of Bishops as well as the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference, international youth day, visiting the churches of United States, France, Philippines, South Korea ... and also invited many international bishops to visit Vietnam as France (1996, 2006), United States (1999, 2009) and on November 2012, the programs are organized for the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) in Vietnam.
  Although the relationship between the Vietnamese Catholic Church and the Vatican are internal relations but sometimes also cause troubles relations as 117 Vietnamese martyrs in 1988 or the appointment of personnel for Ho Chi Minh diocese after April 30th 1975...
 2. The relationship between Vietnam and Vatican on a State.
As mentioned above, the Vatican is not only the capital of the Catholic Church but also the country with the Pope as the head, which acts as national leader, Cardinal Secretary of State also has the position as Prime Minister. The Secretary of State is responsible for contacts with the Vatican’s representative bishops, ambassadors, envoys in the countries. Althought Vietnam has not yet diplomatic relations with the State of the Vatican but the two sides also had numerous contacts over the past decades. Let's review these events.
The first important events mention that after President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2nd 1945, many external enemy forces want to destroy the result of revolution. Faced with this difficulty, Bishop Nguyen Ba Tong was jointly signed with four Vietnamese bishops who sent telegrams to the Vatican would support the independence of Vietnam. Content of telegram is very touching: "The Vietnameses want to sent the pope a deep reverence and blessing, to show generosity and pray for people's independence which we won again and are determined to protect at all costs ... In the face of the events that we touched my heart, the Vietnameses bishops begged the pope, the cardinal, the archbishop, bishops and all Catholics in the world and especially France Catholic support the decision of our country "(6). Obviously, this letter is written by the Vietnam Bishops' sign. It expressed the patriotism of the Vietnamese Catholics but also represented the interest of the young nation with the Vatican’s position.  On September 27th 1945, President Ho Chi Minh chaired the government’s meeting which have reviewed the request of Bishop Nguyen Ba Tong to sent the letter above. Moreover, without the support of the Government how the letter was sent quickly with a letter to Christian around the world in terms of communication difficulties at the time. The letter has made resoundingly on international opinion and took drastic strike against the French colonist. On June 14th 1955, President Ho Chi Minh signed a decree No. 234/SL in which Article 13 clearly stated: "The government does not interfere in the internal affairs of religion. As for Catholics, relations between Vietnamese Church and the Holy Roman are internal problem". It is also an ingenious behavior of President Ho Chi Minh on religion problems
When U.S imperialism expanded destructive war to the North, Pope Paul VI issued a call to "stop bombing the Northern" dated on May 2nd 1967. He sent telegrams to President Ho Chi Minh and would have resolution peaceful to Vietnam.  President Ho Chi Minh said: "I thank him for sending me a telegram which dated on Febuary 8th 1967. In the telegram which he expressed his desire early peaceful solution … I hope that for humanitarian and justice he use his influence, demands the U.S. government to respect the national rights Vietnameses which is peace, independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity as the Geneva Agreement 1954 on Vietnam has confirmed "(7).
However, during the Cold War, the Vatican did not always stay neutral. Evidence that Pope Paul VI had refused to meet with Minister Nguyen Thi Binh when she went to Rome in 1971 but formally welcomed President Nguyen Van Thieu. Pope Paul VI just welcomed Minister Xuan Thuy and Minister Nguyen Van Hieu when the Paris Agreement was signed. As an American journalist written: "Pope retains neutral but bias in Vietnam problem" (8).
After Vietnam conduct a comprehensive reform and want to befriend with all countries in the world. The Cold War ended, the relationship between Vietnam and Vatican are warmer.  On July 1st 1989, Cardinal Roger Etchagaray, representative of Pope John Paul II visited Vietnam in two weeks. This is the most senior officials of the Vatican to Vietnam after the event April 30th 1975. This visit has opened a new route which is frequently the annual work between the Vatican delegation and the Government of Vietnam began in 1990. Since then there has 16 turns of the Vatican delegation to Vietnam and Vietnamese delegation has 3 times over the Vatican (1992, 2005 and 2010). The meeting has resolved many issues related to the Vietnamese Catholic Church in as the appointment of personnel issues for the holy see, established a new diocese, the study aboard of the bishops as well as closer relations between the two sides. There are also some tense problems, such as personnel for Ho Chi Minh city Archbishop (the 4th meeting on October 4th 1996). The Vatican made solutions "package", while the Vietnam wanted to solve each problem individually. The matter was removed only when the Vatican appointed Bishop Nguyen Van Thuan who was Vice Chairman of the Justice and Peace in 1994 and the Government of Vietnam agreed the appointment of Bishop Pham Minh Man as Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh diocese (1998). The consensus of the Vatican and State of Vietnam in the process of appointment of personnel for the Vietnamese Catholic Church have a creative way while keeping the right’s appointment of the Vatican but still avoiding the collision between dharma and life by the appointment there. In late 2005, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe- Minister of Missionary visited Vietnam and attended many activities of the church in all 3 regions, marking a new step in relationsip between Vietnam and Vatican.
For the Government of Vietnam, on June1992, Mr. Vu Quang - Head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs has taken the lead and on June 2005, Mr. Ngo Yen Thi -Head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs also lead Vietnam's delegation over the Vatican. On May 27th 2000, Mr. Nguyen Dy Nien Minister of Foreign Affairs had a meeting with Mr. J. Louis Tauran - Secretary of the Vatican. When Pope John Paul 2 died and the new Pope Benedict XVI throne in April 2005, Prime Minister Mr. Phan Van Khai has telegrams of condolence and congratulation. The highest of relationship between Vietnam and Vatican is the meeting between Prime Minister Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung and Pope Benedict XVI on Juanuary 25th 2007 in Rome. Vietnam's Prime Minister stated: "The Government of Vietnam always attaches importance to relations with the Vatican. We decided to continue the process of direct dialogue with the Vatican based on the principles of: mutual respect, non-interference in each other's internal affairs. Vietnam hopes that the Vatican will encourage the Vietnamese Catholic community who has always attached to the country and nation, as a foundation for the development of relationship between Vietnam and the Vatican "(9). The press release in English and Italian more specific: "the Holy See said the visiting marked an important step towards the normalization of bilateral relations. In recent years, the correlation has received specific improvements and opened widen freedom of religion for the Vietnamese Catholic Church"(10). On the proposal of the Vatican would like to set establishment of full diplomatic relations with Vietnam as well as arrangements for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Vietnam, the Government of Vietnam requested diplomatic sides work together to provide the roadmap. Then, on December 11th 2009 President Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet also scheduled with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. A press release has written by the Vatican "Vatican expressed satisfaction about the visit. This is a significant step for bilateral development between Vietnam and Vatican. The difficulty issues are resolved soon. During the informal meeting, the Vatican mentioned the issues relevant to the collaboration between church and state." This is considered a historic visit which opened new prospects for bilateral ties. To promote bilateral relations, a joint group of the Vietnam -Vatican has been established consisting of representatives of both sides and had a conference round 1 in Hanoi (2009) and round 2 at the Vatican (October 2010). Many issues were discussed to promote bilateral relations. Vatican diplomatic mission lead by Monsignor Parolin Pietre -Vice Foreign Minister of the Holy See and also ended the 16th visit to Vietnam on Febuary from 15th to 22nd 2009. The two sides issued a press release and mark an important step in the process of bilateral relations establishment. The press release stated: "Both sides noted the encouraging development of relationship between Vietnam and the Vaticac from 1990 to now. They held that the first meeting of the joint group is an important step forward in relations between Vietnam and the Vatican and agreed to continue further efforts to promote bilateral relations. "
The prospects of relationship between Viet nam and the Vatican, many people are optimistic that it’s indispensable trend for the benefit of not only 6 millions Vietnamese Catholics fellow but also for the benefit of the whole nation as well as contribute peaceful in the world. Also in Vietnam, even in relation to the dharma - life is complicated cases but currently there is no such problem as China in its relations with the Vatican (as the Catholic Patriotic problems, Taiwan problems ...). On January 5th 2011, on the speech of Cardinal Ivan Dias - envoy of Pope Benedict XVI during the closing ceremony of the Jubilee Year 2010 in La Vang said: "I like the idea of Church and State as fathers and mothers in a family. When they get along, their children will happier". So the relationship between Vietnam and the Vatican are certainly not far. 
 Dr. Pham Huy Thong
1 - The history of his church, Mr. Do Hung Vien is considered the first Vietnamese Catholics in Bo Trung, Thanh Hoa. He was a believer when he’s ambassador in China in 1580
2 - Lead by "Living in the Vietnamese manner" Religious Publishing 2004, P.164.
3 – Tran Tam Tinh: The Cross and the sword, Youth Publisher 1988, P.78
4 – Truong Ba Can: Nguyen Truong To: human and legacy, Ho Chi Minh City Publisher 1990, P.325
5 - According to the Southern Newspaper region No. 947, P.37
6 - Ho Chi Minh City with Catholic followers, National Political Publisher, 2004, P.346
7 - Ho Chi Minh... P.184 -185.
8 - Tam Tran Tinh P.166
9 - The Vietnam Women's newspaper No. 13 dated on January 29th 2007.
10 - As Vietcatholicnews on January 26th 2007