On Aug 27, 2009 and following days, all Vietnam state-controlled media outlets have been publishing/broadcasting an article titled "Ambassador met with Vatican representative” from the VOVNews (Voice of Vietnam News) which has been alleged to be riddled with false information and misinterpretation of the Vietnamese Church's current situation.

According to the News on VOVNews, "Vietnam Ambassador to Italy Mr. Dang Khanh Thoai on Aug 22, 2009 met Monsignor Ettore Balestero, Vatican Deputy Secretary for foreign relations. During their meeting, Mr. Thoai reaffirmed Vietnam’s consistent policy of respecting and protecting the people’s right to religious freedom."

The News read on:" Mr. Thoai also informed the Vatican's representative about the improved and more diversified religious life of Catholic followers in Vietnam, thanks to the efforts of the Vietnamese government at all levels.”

This statement is not true. In fact, what's happened recently in Vietnam has proven it to be just the opposite. As of now, freedom of religion for residents of Son La, Hung Hoa diocese, of Dong Hoi, Vinh diocese, and of many mountainous villages in the Central Highland regions of Dalat, Kon Tum, and Ban Me Thuot dioceses has not been respected. Sadly enough, the Vietnamese Catholics now are under a systematic attack, both physically and emotionally.

The fact that hundreds of Tam Toa Catholics in Dong Hoi were beaten brutally, among them were the two priests Fr. Nguyen The Binh and Fr. Nguyen Dinh Phu who suffered from serious injuries; and the fact that names of other priests Fr. Vu Khoi Phung, Fr. Nguyen Van Khai, Fr. Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong, Fr Nguyen Van That, and Fr. Nguyen Van Phuong had been dragged through mud, and tied to serious charges by the New Hanoi newspaper on Aug 24 (and on other media outlets on subsequent days); and the fact that the continual incarceration of Fr. Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly since 2007 are unacceptable and they have posed a serious threat to the church- state relation which has long been quite tense.

We therefore ask that the state own media outlets in their profession should restrain themselves from taking the role of the court.

The article on VOVNews reported: “The Catholic Church in Vietnam has also been given permission to organize the Year of Saint 2010”. Frankly, we don't understand what the author was trying to convey in his message since the above phrase seems to be meaningless. The fact is in the Catholic Church each saint has a name to be called. None of them was given such a "code name" of 2010. The Church now and then can celebrate "the Year of Saint Peter", "the Year of Saint Paul", but not "The year of saint with code name 2010". In our opinion, a media outlet which represents the voice of the state should not act as carelessly as such. In case it should be understood as "Jubileum 2010" (Holy Year of 2010) then the news in itself has spoken out clearly the nature of the so-called "policy of respecting and protecting the people’s right to religious freedom". Churches from countries around the world, even in China and Cuba, need no permission to celebrate a Holy Year.

Such news we would honestly think will only be a joke to the international community and bring insult to our national pride.

The News on VOVNews went on: "Ambassador Dang Khanh Thoai said he would agree with Pope Benedict’s XVI statement during his meeting with the Vietnamese bishops in Rome. In his address, he [the Pope] called on Vietnamese Catholics to contribute the national development, treating it as a duty and an important contribution to Vietnam as it is trying to improve its relation with the world community".

To use such a dirty trick of tailoring Pope's statements in order to defame the Church in Vietnam is unacceptable, as it will not help the dialogue between the Church and the state.

Reality had shown that in North Vietnam after 1954, and in South Vietnam after 1975, more than 2250 of Catholic colleges, high schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, and other charitable facilities have been seized and used for purposes other than they were originally built up for, including for the commercial purpose and rewarding the party's cadres. The Church in the meantime has been prohibited to serve in the areas such as education and health care, except for a number of facilities which were taking care of the leprosy and the AIDS patients whom the government wanted nothing to do with.

Vietnamese bishops have repeatedly asked to be able to participate in activities in which the Church has been so skilled at, namely education or health care. The Vietnamese church, though being prohibited, has still been trying to find ways to contribute to the thriving of the country.

Tailoring statements of the Pope, the highest spiritual leader of the worldwide Catholic Church is a disrespectful act, and it will certainly be exposed for the world’s public opinion to judge.

We would like to reiterate a few points which were mentioned in the document called: "Statement of Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops on current issues":

"..professional ethics requires media personnel to respect the truth. In reality, there has been distorted and tailored information as in the land dispute at Hanoi former nunciature. We, therefore, suggest that media personnel should take precaution in broadcasting or publishing the news and pictures, especially when reputation and integrity of individuals or a community are at stake. If incorrect information was given, it should be retracted or corrected. Only when the truth is respected can the media community finish their duty which is to inform and educate the public of a just, democratic and civilized society."

We hope that the distortion of the truth about the Vietnamese Church’s current situation has to be quickly stopped. Any articles or piece of news which are slanderous to the Church in Vietnam should be prohibited in order to prepare grounds for a positive and effective dialogue between the Church and the state of Vietnam.