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PM receives Episcopal Council President

Hanoi (VNA) – Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung received representatives of the Vietnam Episcopal Council (VEC), headed by President Bishop Nguyen Van Nhon, in Hanoi on Oct. 1 on the occasion of the closing of the council’s second annual conference.

After hearing opinions voiced by VEC’s representatives on social issues in an open and cordial atmosphere, PM Dung expressed his pleasure to see that the solidarity existing between Catholics and other strata of society has been consolidated and developed over recent years.

He also praised the Catholic community for their contributions to the country’s achievements over recent years, as well as during the first nine months of 2008.

The PM said he is content with the obedience and respect shown to the law by the great majority of Catholic people, evidenced by the carrying out of good deeds for both personal and religious reasons and the fine relationship between the local authorities and the parishioners, Catholic priests and the VEC in working for the best interests of the country.

He also expressed his determination to cultivate and consolidate the national unity bloc, good relations between non-Catholics and Catholics and solidarity among those of different religions.

The State policy that aims to uphold good relations between the State and religious organisations, including the Vietnam Catholics Church and the VEC is a full manifestation of State responsibility and affection towards those holding religious beliefs in Vietnam , PM Dung said.

The PM reiterated Vietnam ’s policy of freedom of religion and belief, which aims to meet the legitimate rights and interests of religious devotees.

This policy has been ensured by law and followed on the basis of respect for the law, he said, adding that any acts misusing the right to religious freedom to violate the law are unacceptable.

All Vietnamese religious followers are first and foremost Vietnamese citizens. A good religious follower must also be a good citizen, PM Dung stressed.

He availed himself of the meeting to inform the Catholic dignitaries of the State’s views regarding land issues, noting that Vietnam’s constitution and current laws state clearly that land belongs to the people under the unified management of the State.
The right to own land as private property is not recognised in Vietnam ’s constitution and current laws, PM Dung stressed.

In addition, according to the 11 th National Assembly’s Resolution No. 23, the State neither consider any claim for land return nor review guidelines and implementation of any policies relating to land and houses which were put under the State’s management, allocation and utility as decided prior to July 1 st , 1991, the Government leader noted.

“It is absolutely unacceptable when someone regards the land laws as incomplete and twists them,” PM Dung said.

He emphasised that the allocation of land to any religious organisation for religious purposes must be performed in line with the law with regard to the proposal submitted by that organisation, as well as existing policies on land and religion and local land reserves.

PM Dung citied a number of localities, where this has been implemented well, including Ho Chi Minh City, which has allocated land to the municipal bishopric to build a centre serving its activities.

He mentioned the central highlands province of Dac Lac where more than 11,000 sq. m of land were handed over to the Buon Ma Thuot bishopric, the central city of Da Nang’s allotment of 9,000 sq. m of land to the Da Nang bishopric, and the central province of Quang Tri’s allocation of over 15 ha of land to the La Vang parish as some examples.

According to the PM, the northern province of Nam Dinh has assigned the land area surrounding Khoai Dong church to Bui Chu bishopric, whilst the central highlands province of Lam Dong has assigned 10 ha of land to the provincial church to build a centre supporting its religious activities.

In addition to these cases, many others were also addressed on the grounds of cooperation between local churches and administrations in the spirit of dialogue and a high sense of community responsibility being taken into account, PM Dung said.

He criticised acts that breach the law, including gathering en masse to claim land, installing statues, crosses, and huts, destroying public assets, and clashing with on-duty officials at the Thai Ha parish, 178 Nguyen Luong Bang street and 42 Nha Chung in Hanoi in recent time.

The PM praised the Vietnam Episcopal Council for not advocating to carry out such deeds and urged the Episcopal Council to make decisions to put an end to such acts and to prevent reoccurrence of wrongdoings.
“If those activities do not come to an end, they will have an adverse impact on the good ties between the State and the Church and the relationship between Vietnam and the Vatican , which has been progressing positively,” PM Dung said.

PM Dung said he regretted that Hanoi archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet has recently committed erroneous deeds, such as instigation, organisation and even support for law violations by a number of priests and parishioners at 42 Nha Chung street and 178 Nguyen Luong Bang street in Hanoi .

Archbishop Kiet showed lack of respect and cooperation with the Hanoi administration to conduct dialogue for appropriate solutions, PM Dung said.

He stressed that Kiet’s words challenged the State, hurt the nation, and disregarded the country’s position and the status of Vietnamese citizens in their interrelation with the world.

Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet should reconsider his behaviors to correct himself and take practical actions to overcome those wrongdoings, PM Dung said, asking the Vietnam Episcopal Council to give more assistance to archbishop Kiet, particularly in abiding by the law, for common interest.

PM Dung spoke of the goodwill of the Government and the centrally-run State agencies and local authorities, saying they are willing to converse with the Catholics, not advocate the use of forces, to settle the recent violations of law at 42 Nha Chung and the Thai Ha parish.

“However, for acts against constitution and law, any countries must employ necessary measures to protect their constitution and law,” PM Dung stressed.

Representatives of the Vietnam Episcopal Council thanked the PM for receiving them and expressed aspiration of Catholic followers to continue to stand side by side with the nation in building the country.

The PM said he expected archbishops, priests, clergymen and Catholic followers to join hands in building Vietnam into a prosperous and strong country.

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