The third meeting of the Joint Vietnam-Holy See working group held on Feb 27-28 was resumed in Hanoi after being stalled for several months.

In contrast to the group's second meeting held in June 2010 which resulted in a substantial progress: the Vatican's appointment of a non-residential pontifical representative in Vietnam, Archbishop Leopold Girelli, the third meeting held last week did not achieve any real breakthrough in the process of "strengthening and extending the bilateral relations"

State media reported that the meeting had been taken place in an atmosphere of "cordiality, frankness and mutual respect". But beyond the language bearing a generic, hollow, diplomatic tone, the reports noted only one concrete result which was the agreement between the two sides on facilitating the work of the non-residential pontifical representative, Archbishop Girelli, so that he can "better fulfil his mission."

A survey recently done by Asia-News in Vietnam indicated the majority of the Catholics in this country and the Vietnamese overseas community have expressed disappointment with the modest result of the meeting where it served mainly as a place for the Hanoi officials to shout out empty slogans which bear no truth.

As a matter of fact, while the meeting taking place, Fr. Luis Nguyen Quang Hoa (associate pastor of Kon Hring parish- Kontum province) was savagely beaten just because he came to celebrate mass at a funeral of a parishioner on Feb 23 in Kon Hnong village where the Vietnam government had declared a “No Religion Zone”. It’s obvious that while the Vietnam government claims its respect for freedom of religion, it continue to regulate mass areas where religion is to be prohibited. Local officials in Kon Hnong sent a document to the Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh of Kontum, stating Fr. Nguyen Quang Hoa had violated the law for celebrating mass in that particular area therefore should be punished severely.

The joint statement issued by the Holy See on Feb 28 also indicated that the Vatican-Hanoi relation did not show obvious progress in the direction of establishing a diplomatic relationship, in the context that between the Catholic Church in Vietnam and the authorities remain many outstanding issues, especially those related to land disputes. The most recent event cited was the government attempt to demolish completely the Vinh Long Seminary to build a new Youth Centre, a move observed by many as to remove traces of religion in the religious facilities which the State had "borrowed" despite the Bishopric of Vinh Long has repeatedly called on the authorities to show its concern for religious needs.