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Cablegate: Hcmc Cardinal On Religious Freedom, Hiv/Aids and the Apec

VZCZCXRO2777
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #1047 2570855
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140855Z SEP 06
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1456
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI 1021
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 0001
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 1525

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 001047

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KIRF SNAR SOCI VM
SUBJECT: HCMC CARDINAL ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, HIV/AIDS AND THE APEC
PRESIDENTIAL VISIT

REF: HCMC 972; B) HCMC 1035

1. (SBU) Over dinner September 13, Archbishop of HCMC Cardinal
Pham Minh Man told the Consul General that conditions for the
Catholic Church continue to improve gradually in Vietnam.
Vietnam's bishops met in Hue earlier in September to discuss
next steps in promoting the interests of the Catholic Church.
The GVN sent two members of the national Committee for Religious
Affairs to attend the conference. The Party Secretary of Thua
Thien Hue and other senior provincial officials hosted a dinner
for the bishops at the Hue Citadel. The bishops drafted a joint
letter, welcoming the promotion of Nguyen Minh Triet to the
Presidency. Alluding to the Church's ongoing discussions with
the GVN to establish full diplomatic relations, the letter
called on the GVN to return three confiscated properties to the
Church: the former residence of the papal nuncio in Hanoi, 15
hectares (37 acres) of property at the La Vang pilgrimage site
in Quang Tri province, and a seminary in Dalat. Quiet talks
between the two sides continue, but the Cardinal would not
speculate as to when a Vatican-GVN deal could be struck.

2. (SBU) The Cardinal recounted that he called on Triet in HCMC
during his last few days as HCMC Party Secretary. Triet told
the Cardinal that, during the deliberations ahead of the Party
Congress, he had proposed merging the positions of the General
Secretary and the President, but the idea was rejected. Triet

SIPDIS
also expressed his disappointment that few in the Communist
Party had the courage to "make change." The Cardinal said he
encouraged Triet to support the HCMC Archdiocese's efforts to
combat HIV/AIDS.

3. (SBU) Focusing on the Church's HIV/AIDS efforts, the Cardinal
said that the Archdiocese has identified an appropriate property
in HCMC's Cu Chi district for its proposed integrated,
community-based HIV/AIDS care center (ref A). Catholic
businessmen in HCMC are negotiating to purchase the property.
The Cardinal foresees problems in obtaining construction permits
and will seek USG advocacy with HCMC officials should the
permitting process stall. He welcomed Ambassador-at-Large for
Religious Affairs recent discussions with HCMC officials in
support of the Archdiocese's HIV/AIDS activities (ref B). The
Cardinal and his staff confirmed ref A reporting that the
Catholic church thus far has been unable to register as a legal
entity or NGO for the purpose of providing HIV/AIDS support.
The church now is exploring registering some of its HIV/AIDS
operations as a business.

4. (SBU) Cardinal Man said he planned to travel to Washington
from October 9 to 14. He will participate in a prayer breakfast
and other activities, but also would welcome the opportunity to
meet with USG officials. Turning to the visit of the President
to Vietnam for the APEC Leader's Summit, the Cardinal noted that
he would be delighted to participate or preside over a religious
event for the President, particularly one that "emphasized
reconciliation and cooperation."

WINNICK

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