New Vatican Vietnam appointment spawns confusion

The Vatican late last month announced that Pope Benedict would soon name "a non-resident representative" to Vietnam, a highly unusual move that seems to have divided local Catholics and taken some Vietnamese church leaders by surprise.

"In order to deepen the relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, as well as the bonds between the Holy See and the local Catholic Church, it was agreed that, as a first step, a non-resident representative of the Holy See for Vietnam will be appointed by the Pope," the Vatican said in statement.

Vietnam has Asia's second-largest Catholic population and has been holding talks with the Vatican for years on forging diplomatic ties.

“I’m really confused,” said Father Jean Baptiste Huynh Cong Minh, an aide to
Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man of Ho Chi Minh City reportedly told a local paper , “because this morning when I met with the cardinal he seemed to know nothing about the move either.”

“Personally, I have not any idea on the representative office of Holy See to Vietnam, nor who will be in charge of such an office. I’m completely unaware of that and all those with whom I have met did not know either,” Father Huynh said.

“Our expectation is that since we live in Vietnam, any issue pertinent to the Vietnamese cause, even when it only concerns the government, we should be informed and involved,” he added.

The new move follows the April appointment of Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, chairman of the Conference of Bishops, to the post of coadjutor to Archbishop of Hanoi, a move described by Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, vice President of the Vietnamese Episcopal conference, as “sudden and unexpected”.

Divisions continue to exist among Vietnamese Catholics and these get exaccerbated when questions arise as to how to deal with the communist government. Hard-liners see it one say; those advocating reconciliation see it another.

In recent months, some of these lines are being crossed, it appears, as the Vatican, which has had no official representation in Vietnam since 1975, has worked to build bridges with the Hanoi government.

The speed of recent events seems to be hatching confusion and suspicion. More should be clarified when details of the new non-resident representative become known.

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