Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point
On Air
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Monday, October 26, 1998 Published at 23:34 GMT


World: Europe

Pope hopes to go to Vietnam

Pope John Paul II: Keen to visit Vietnam

By Religious Affairs Reporter Jane Little

Pope John Paul II might soon visit Vietnam, a trip the Pontiff has for long wanted to make.

The Roman Catholic Bishops of Vietnam have made a formal request to the Communist government to allow the head of the Church to visit the country.


[ image: Pope John Paul II has visited 120 countries]
Pope John Paul II has visited 120 countries
It is the first time that the church has made a written request to the Communist government, which has no diplomatic ties with the Vatican and keeps religious activities under close state control.

According to Fides, the Vatican's missionary news agency, the Vietnamese Bishop's Conference would like the Pope to take part in a large Catholic festival on August 15 next year.

The approach appears to be a well-timed one, as a United Nations official is touring Vietnam to investigate religious freedom.

The UN Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance, Abdelfattah Amor, has travelled to Vietnam after three years of negotiations.

Fides has asked him to visit four Catholics in jail.

Catholic minority

Bernado Cervellera, the director of Fides, says the Pontiff is very hopeful that the Vietnam visit will go ahead.

"The Pope and the Vatican are very optimistic because we have a lot of hope and I think diplomatic ways can find some special paths," Mr Cervellera said,

He added that John Paul II could visit Vietnam as a spiritual chief, not as a head of state.

If the government gave its approval, the Pope would attend a large pilgrimage at a shrine in the central province of La Vang, where Catholics believe the Virgin Mary appeared 200 years ago.

This year, more than 100,000 Catholics attended the three-day festival, which was widely taken as a sign that the authorities are opening up towards religion.

Roughly 10% of Vietnam's population is Roman Catholic, the vast majority being Buddhist.

Religion is kept under close scrutiny, and the Vatican has long been concerned about limits set on the numbers of trainee priests, which is causing a dramatic shortage.

The government also blocked the Vatican's appointment of the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City for several years.

But now the Church appears to be calculating that if the government really is serious about improving its image on religious freedom, it will accede to a papal visit.



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©




Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia



Relevant Stories

16 Oct 98 | Europe
Populist Pope - strict traditionalist

15 Oct 98 | Europe
Pope urges pause for thought

14 Oct 98 | Europe
Pope picks up the phone

19 Jun 98 | Europe
The most mobile Pope in history





Internet Links


The Vatican

The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly magazine

The Catholic Media Office


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift