by Bridget Kelly
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vietnamese government revoked the visas of representatives of the Rome Diocese, including Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, postponing the delegation’s plans for a visit to the communist country.
The delegation had planned to visit Vietnam March 23-April 9 to hear the testimonies of people who knew the late Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, whose cause for sainthood was launched by the Diocese of Rome in 2010.
Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, told Catholic News Service March 28 that the Vatican was not directly involved with the planned trip.
He said the delegation was traveling on behalf of the Diocese of Rome, which is promoting the late cardinal’s sainthood cause.
Delegation members had asked for tourist visas and had not gone through the Vatican’s diplomatic channels, Father Benedettini said.
The Vietnamese Embassy in Italy withdrew the visas, reported AsiaNews, a Rome-based missionary news agency.
Cardinal Turkson, as head of the justice and peace council, is helping with the process of beatification of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, who served as president of the same council from 1998 to 2002.
The Vietnamese cardinal died in Rome in 2002 at the age of 74.
Vietnam’s communist regime jailed Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan in 1975 when he was the newly named coadjutor bishop of Saigon, later renamed Ho Chi Minh City. He was never tried or sentenced and spent nine of his 13 years of detention in solitary confinement. His uncle was South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic who was assassinated in 1963.
The church and religious activity face strict controls in Vietnam, though some parts of the country have seen a gradual easing of restrictions on Catholic practices.
In 2010, Vietnam agreed to let Pope Benedict XVI name a papal representative to Catholics in the country and, several months later, accepted the pope’s appointee as a first step toward diplomatic relations.