Pope Francis sends a letter to Catholics in Vietnam commending the historic adoption of the Agreement on the Status of the Resident Pontifical Representative and emphasising the enduring importance of love, dialogue, and charity, calling on the faithful to be a positive force for good in their nation while fostering collaboration with government authorities.
Pope Francis with Vietnam's President, Vo Van Thuong during an audience in the Vatican on 27 July 2023 (AFP or licensors)
Pope Francis has extended his heartfelt greetings to the entire Catholic community of Vietnam on the occasion of the adoption of the Agreement between the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and the Holy See concerning the Status of the Resident Pontifical Representative in Vietnam.
The Pope's letter, addressed to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons, and the Catholic community in Vietnam, emphasizes the enduring importance of love as the measure of faith. Pope Francis writes, "Love is the measure of faith, and faith is the soul of love, never forgetting that love for God and neighbor are two sides of the same coin."
The importance of the agreement
The adoption of this agreement marks a significant step in the ongoing relationship between the Holy See and Vietnam, reflecting the positive relations that have developed in recent years. Notably, President Vo Van Thuong's official visit to the Vatican in July served as a symbol of hope for continued collaboration and mutual understanding. In his letter, Pope Francis highlights the significance of this visit by stating, "this meeting holds special significance in the process of strengthening relations between the Holy See and Vietnam."
Vietnam-Holy See relations
In his letter, Pope Francis recognises the Vietnamese people's courage, tenacity, and sense of family, qualities deeply appreciated by the Church. He emphasises the importance of dialogue and the pursuit of the common good, even in the face of differences, and commends the ongoing work of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group. "Although each of them came from different backgrounds and experiences of life, it did not prevent them from seeking together the best way forward for the good of the Vietnamese people and the Church," the Pope notes.
Referencing the teachings of Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis emphasises the role of Catholics as both members of the Church and citizens of Vietnam. He calls on the faithful to be "loyally committed to building a just, supportive, and fair society," emphasising collaboration and dialogue. Pope Benedict XVI's words are also echoed in his letter, emphasising the Church's desire to collaborate with government leaders, "she wishes only to be able to play a just role in the nation’s life, at the service of the whole people, in a spirit of dialogue and respectful collaboration."
Charity and service
The Pope underscores the importance of charity and service, especially in times of crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic. He commends the Catholic community for its contributions to society and its dedication to the vulnerable and those in need. "The Church in Vietnam, with the encouragement of each Bishop and of the Vietnamese Bishops' Conference, has proven to be a leaven in society, accompanying it in its development and contributing to its progress as faithful, responsible and credible believers," Pope Francis writes.
The Vietnamese Bishops recalled all this in their Pastoral Letter issued this year, which focused on fostering participation in the life of the community through mutual love, sincere listening, and acts of charity, shown also towards those who do not share the same faith, and in caring for the most vulnerable and most in need, said the Pope.
Calling to carry the teachings of Jesus
The Pope describes his brothers and sisters in Vietnam, the Catholic faithful, as being ever ready to respond effectively to the daily needs of others and to participate in the building up of the common good in every area of the country’s social life. They are called to carry out the teaching of Jesus to be “the light of the world and the salt of the earth” and to “let their light so shine before others that they may see their good works and give glory to their Father in heaven”, says the Pope.
Pope Francis concludes his letter by invoking the words of Saint John XXIII, emphasizing the importance of love in relationships between individuals and nations. "It is principally characteristic of love that it draws men and women together in all sorts of ways, sincerely united in the bonds of mind and matter; and this is a union from which countless blessings can flow", he quotes.
Bear witness to the love and charity of Jesus
Finally, the Pope prays that God will enlighten and guide the Catholic community in Vietnam, so that they may bear witness to the love and charity of Jesus Christ for the glory of God. "In concluding this fraternal Letter, it is my hope that you, dear Bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, will be courageous in following the example of Christ," he says.
"May Our Lady of La Vang, the beloved patroness of Vietnam, watch over and intercede for the Catholic Church and the nation, bringing blessings and abundant graces to all", he concludes.