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Cablegate: Cardinal Man Talks About Land and Other Catholic Concerns

VZCZCXRO0455
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0503/01 1430514
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 220514Z MAY 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4491
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3064
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY 0007
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 4715

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000503

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL/IRF AND DRL/AWH

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KIRF PHUM PGOV PREL SOCI VM
SUBJECT: CARDINAL MAN TALKS ABOUT LAND AND OTHER CATHOLIC CONCERNS

REF: A) HANOI 448 B) 07 HCMC 1221 C) 07 HCMC 844 AND PREVIOUS

HO CHI MIN 00000503 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) At dinner with the Consul General on May 14, HCMC
Cardinal Pham Minh Man was upbeat regarding the recent return of
land at La Vang, an important pilgrimage site in Hue province.
Despite this positive development, the Cardinal stressed the
Church still has many outstanding property issues to resolve.
Plans to open an expanded center for HIV/AIDS patients appear to
be moving haltingly forward, while the Church's recently
re-opened Pastoral Center in HCMC is drawing large crowds of lay
people "thirsty" for Catholic instruction. The Cardinal said
the June visit of a Vatican official to Hanoi will focus
primarily on filling current and anticipated vacancies in the
ranks of Vietnamese Bishops. End summary.

Property Issues
---------------
2. (SBU) During his dinner with the Consul General on May 14,
Cardinal Man was pleased to report that La Vang, the site of a
former pilgrimage center in Hue, would be returned to the
Church. The Cardinal confirmed that 21 out of 23 hectares at La
Vang would be returned; the remaining two hectares had
"environmental issues," according to local authorities in Hue.
The Church is in the process of finalizing paperwork for the
transfer of title, but plans to expand the national pilgrimage
center there (the Church currently has a six-hectare plot with
temporary center on the site), hopefully in time to receive
thousands of delegates and pilgrims on August 28. The site is
one of three key properties the Church has been pressing the GVN
to return; the other two are the former residence of the Papal
Nuncio in Hanoi and the Pontifical Institute in Dalat (Ref A).

The Church on Social Work
-------------------------
3. (SBU) The Cardinal said their efforts to establish an
HIV-AIDS center for single mothers and orphans in an outlying
district of HCMC had been moving forward, albeit haltingly. The
Church has been trying to expand their current HIV-AIDS work
through the building of this center since December 2005, but
problems with corrupt officials and slow-moving HCMC bureaucracy
have plagued progress thus far (Ref B). They thought they had
made a breakthrough a few months ago when they finally received
the go-ahead from newly-appointed local officials of Can Gio
district (after the former district leaders had been sacked for
corrupt land dealings) and a decision memo authorizing the
operation of the shelter made the rounds with all relevant HCMC
agencies. Unfortunately, the decision now appears to be stuck
in the HCMC People's Committee--specifically with a new
Committee vice chairman who appears reluctant to grant
permission despite the support the project has from Committee
Deputy Chairman Hai. Having pushed for 2.5 years already, the
church is taking this latest setback in stride and is trying to
find a way forward.

4. (SBU) On a more positive note, the Cardinal said the Church's
newly-opened pastoral center (a training facility for lay
persons who will serve as deacons and in other non-ordained
roles) in HCMC is bringing in thousands of HCMC residents
"thirsty" for theological studies after the many years the
Church was unable to provide such courses. Demand is exceeding
expectations and the center is literally packed to capacity with
no sign of officials interfering with those attending or
otherwise discouraging Catholic studies. The Cardinal said he
eventually wants to further expand the Church's education
efforts with children and young people.

5. (SBU) The Cardinal contrasted success with the pastoral
center with the church's ongoing frustration over the roadblocks
they face with their social work activities. In a separate
conversation, the HCMC Vicar General Huynh Cong Minh said that
the Church has been allowed to carry out charitable works
"illegally" by having small religious groups work without formal
NGO status. A good example of this is the Mai Tam shelter for
HIV-positive mothers, children and orphans run by Catholic
Father Toai. While they continue to work through the red tape
towards full NGO status for this any other entities, the Church
also wants full management over the new HIV/AIDS Center they are
trying to build and hopes this proposal will also be accepted by
the GVN.

Vatican Emissary Will Focus on Bishops
--------------------------------------
6. (SBU) The Consul General brought up a recent Catholic News
article noting the upcoming visit of Vatican representative
Monsignor Pietor Parolin to Hanoi in June and asked whether this
was a positive sign of advancing GVN-Vatican relations. The
Cardinal said Monsignor Parolin would be continuing discussions
with the GVN regarding the need to appoint new bishops to
current and upcoming vacancies in dioceses where bishops are

HO CHI MIN 00000503 002.2 OF 002


reaching retirement age or are too ill to carry out their
duties. The Vatican wanted to come in May but the Cardinal said
the GVN declined because they would be tied up with Vesak Day
celebrations. The Cardinal said appointing new bishops from the
South has been problematic, because the GVN doesn't want "too
many Southerners" filling these key leadership roles (Ref C).

News From America (and a bit of humor)
----------------------------------------
7. (SBU) Cardinal Man will be visiting the U.S. twice during
2008, both times as part of longer international journeys.
Asked about attitudes among Vietnamese Americans toward Vietnam,
he replied that the majority want to rebuild links with their
homeland while a small but very vocal minority remains
militantly opposed to any contact with the GVN or Vietnam. The
Cardinal went on to explain that during his last American trip
he learned that there are three types of Vietnamese Catholic
communities in the USA: Vietnamese, Vietnamese-Americans and
American-Vietnamese. In Vietnamese communities, the churches
are full. In Vietnamese-American communities, the churches are
half full. In American-Vietnamese communities, they are ready
to sell the churches.

8. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

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