Recent moves of the Holy See on issues relating to Vietnam have caused great concerns among Catholic hierarchy as they had no voice on the decision making process. The local Church is bewildered with the feeling of being imposed with unexpected and sudden developments, one after another.

The appointment of a non-residential representative to Vietnam has caused astonishment among Catholics in Vietnam. “Personally, I have not any idea on the representative office of Holy See to Vietnam, nor who will be in charge of such an office. I’m completely unaware of that and all those with whom I have met did not know either,” said Fr. Jean Baptiste Huynh Cong Minh, the assistant of Cardinal Jean Baptiste Pham Minh Man, Archbishop of Saigon.

“I’m really confused,” said the priest, “because this morning (June 29) when I met with the Cardinal, he too seemed to know nothing about the move.”

At the end of April, Vatican announced the appointment of Mgr. Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, chairman of the Conference of Bishops, to the post of coadjutor to Archbishop of Hanoi, a move described by Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, vice President of the Vietnamese Episcopal conference, as “sudden and unexpected”. He also observed that the appointment had inflamed disputes between Vietnamese Catholics. "Some pessimists - he explained - have defined it a big mistake of the Vatican, a sign of division among the bishops and bishops' conference, a sign of manipulation and as a sad chapter in the history of the Church of Vietnam and Hanoi in particular."

Just two weeks later came another announcement for the resign of Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet.

And the announcement of a plan to name a “non-resident representative” of the Holy See to the Vietnamese government came on June 26.

Vietnamese Catholics have expressed their confusion and disappointment when a series of events having a direct impact on their religious lives has taken place without warnings and proper mental preparation on their part.

Many observe that important decisions on the Church in Vietnam apparently have been made swiftly in an extremely hasty fashion without input from the bishops of the local Church, and have been based on assessments ignorant to the actual situation of the Church in Vietnam.

“Our expectation is that since we live in Vietnam, any issue pertinent to the Vietnamese cause, even when it only concerns the government, we should be informed and involved,” added Fr. Huynh.

Echoing the concern of many that the Vietnamese government’s direct conduit to Rome might have the effect of weakening the local bishops, who have often clashed with the government on issues involving the freedom to worship and the control of properties owned by the Church but seized by the Communist regime, the Cardinal’s assistant expressed his desire that “there would be means to allow bishops in Vietnam to have a direct say with the Vatican” on issues relating to the life of the Church in the country.

“I believe that,” he explained further, “those who have great Church’s responsibilities in the Vatican, Pope, and Cardinals who head departments of the Roman Curia, want the good things for the Universal Church, and the Church in Vietnam... But how they know our situation? It must be through mediators. We have seen enormous problems with these mediators.”

“In reality, it seems to me that these mediators have attempted to hinder a direct relationship between our bishops and Church leaders in Vatican,” he warned.