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This organization, established by the Vietnamese government as a Catholic entity, has never received recognition from the Vatican.
Thien Truong wrote this article in Vietnamese, which was published in Luat Khoa Magazine on October 30, 2023. Lee Nguyen translated the article into English.
On Oct. 12, 2023, resounding applause filled the hall as numerous priests, monks, and Catholic followers gathered to welcome government officials at a convention held in Hanoi.
After playing the national anthem, government leaders, clergy, and monks delivered rousing speeches and engaged in various discussions.
The bishops of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam were curiously absent from the event.
Equally noteworthy was the lack of the Christian crucifix, the emblematic symbol of Christian churches and the Vietnam Catholic Church.
In that place was a red flag with a yellow star, accompanied by a bust of Ho Chi Minh–a familiar item in government offices and conferences organized by the state.
This was the scene at the 8th National Congress of Vietnamese Catholics to Build and Protect the Fatherland, a convention organized by the state-run Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics (CSVC).
Although this committee boasts official recognition of legitimacy from the government, most Vietnamese Catholics do not consider it their supreme leadership body. What drives this phenomenon? In what ways does the Vietnamese government attempt to regulate Catholicism via this committee?
On August 15, 1945, while Japanese Emperor Hirohito was announcing his country's surrender to the Allied forces, a conference held by the Central Committee of the Indochinese Communist Party was taking place in Tan Trao Ward, Tuyen Quang Province, Vietnam.
The conference's first resolution mentioned “how to expand Catholicism in Vietnam to save the country's National Assembly.” This mentioned association between Vietnam's Catholicism and the VCP was the precursor to the CSVC, and this resolution showed that the CSVC had established its roots before the August Revolution of 1945. 
After the August Revolution in 1945, many Catholic followers from this organization participated in and collaborated with the new government. 
In 1949, Pope Pius XII issued an order that prohibited Catholic believers from collaborating with Communists.  This command created a moral divide among Catholic followers participating in the Vietnam Catholic Association for National Salvation, dividing them into two groups: those breaking away from the control of the Viet Minh government and those remaining loyal to the Viet Minh.
Among those who chose to leave was Prelate Le Huu Tu. He was the fifth Vietnamese bishop, Phat Diem Diocese prelate, and Bui Chu Diocese's apostolic administrator.
In Bui Chu, Phat Diem, Tu established an independent Catholic self-defense militia. By 1951, an estimated 6,000 people had joined this force. 
The group that sided with the Viet Minh mainly consisted of members of the Vietnam Catholic Association for National Salvation, which later changed its name to the Liaison Committee of Patriotic and Peace-Loving Vietnamese Catholics, abbreviated as the National Catholic Liaison Committee, led by Father Vu Xuan Ky. 
By 1954, Vietnam was divided into north and south along the 17th parallel. This led to the migration of between 750,000 to 1 million Catholic followers from the north to the south, equivalent to around two-thirds of the total number of Catholics in the country then. Naturally, the group that broke away from Viet Minh control, led by Bishop Le Huu Tu, also joined this migration due to fears of religious oppression. After this incident, the activities of the Church in the north became increasingly constrained.
The Communist government applied Karl Marx's ideology to handle religious issues. Marx famously said, “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Communism believed religion was a source of decadence, irrationality and a tool of exploitation by capitalism, imperialism, and colonialism. Therefore, the Communists' goal was the complete elimination of religion. However, Ho Chi Minh believed this could not be achieved in Vietnam. Hence, he pursued a different policy in managing Catholicism: establishing a state-controlled church, organized by the state and independent of the Vatican. 
To carry out this intention, in March 1955, the northern government organized the National Congress of Patriotic Catholics in Hanoi, with the blessing of Ho Chi Minh. This event marked the beginning of the government officially recognizing the National Catholic Liaison Committee.
In December 1960, the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam was established in Tay Ninh Province. Following this, in April 1961, a similar organization to the National Catholic Liaison Committee was also created, the Association of God-fearing and Patriotic Catholics, managed by the Front. 
After April 30, 1975, the communist government became more determined to control religion nationwide.
By 1983, Vietnam allowed the Unified Representative Congress of the National Catholic Liaison Committee in the North and the Association of God-fearing and Patriotic Catholics in the South to be held in Hanoi, thereby establishing the Vietnam Committee for Patriotic Catholic Solidarity.
Seven years later, in a congress held in October 1990, this organization changed its name to the Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics (CSVC), a name it still has. 
On Nov. 11, 1997, the government passed Resolution No. 297, introducing a series of prohibitions and activities requiring government permission in religious matters.  With this resolution, the government tried to isolate Catholic followers from the national community.
Today, the CSVC is a social organization that operates under the management of the Vietnam Fatherland Front.
On Sept. 19, 2008, a barbed wire fence surrounded the compound of the Hanoi Nunciature while several armored trucks and hundreds of police officers encircled the site. 
In front of a crowd of priests, monks, and Catholic followers, the government shamelessly leveled the land and proceeded with construction on the disputed ground.
Before this event, the area had attracted hundreds of Catholic followers who gathered in prayer to oppose the government's seizure of the Hanoi Nunciature. Many bishops, priests, and monks made regular appearances over the course of several days.
However, the CSVC and the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Hanoi representatives were noticeably absent.
The CSVC’s official website clearly states that one of its tasks is to reflect the Catholic people's legitimate lawful aspirations and wishes.  However, they have remained silent and ignored incidents such as the seizure of the Hanoi Nunciature and the later destruction of the Loc Hung vegetable garden in 2019.
The conventions of the CSVC always have the participation of Vietnamese leaders and are shown favor by the government, which has provided financial support and by approving personnel. This starkly contrasts the meetings of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam. 
No specific data is available on the number of priests appointed or the state funding allocated yearly to the CSVC. However, it is known that the funding provided to the organization varies in each locality.
For example, in 2017 and 2018, the Provincial Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee of Dong Nai Province provided an annual operating support fund of 100 million dong for the Provincial CSVC.   Phu Tho Province's budget for the Provincial CSVC reached 600 million dong. 
In addition, the personnel of the CSVC are appointed and approved by the government.
Through reports by state-owned media about the CSVC, the government consistently emphasizes that this organization includes all kinds of followers from all walks of life, such as the laity, monks, and priests. However, it is easy to notice the absence of any Catholic bishops from local and central congresses. This can be understood as the bishops' implicit opposition to the CSVC.
It should be noted that the Vietnam Catholic Church has not prohibited priests, monks, or laity from participating in the CSVC, and their participation depends on the relationships in each diocese or the views of individual bishops.
Nevertheless, since the CSVC was established, most bishops in northern dioceses had clear objections to this organization. Notable examples include Bishop Bui Chu Tao (Diocese of Phat Diem), Vu Duy Nhat (Bui Chu Parish), Nguyen Quang Tuyen (Bac Ninh Province), Nguyen Van Sang (Thai Binh Province), and Auxiliary Bishop Le Dac Trong (Archdiocese of Hanoi), who have prohibited priests under their management from participating in CSVC activities. 
In Hanoi, priests participating in the CSVC are noticeably scarce. As a result, Father Duong Phu Oanh (Diocese of Hung Hoa), although retired, was still appointed by the government as chairman of the CSVC. 
Moreover, some provinces in the North still do not have CSVC branches. Thai Nguyen Province is an example; it was only in 2016 that the provincial government officially established the CSVC in the locality. 
With around a million followers in the Xuan Loc Diocese, Dong Nai Province had a provincial CSVC established very early on. Dong Nai is one of the rare provinces where all 11 districts and cities were built and effectively maintained the CSVC's agencies at the district level.  Except for Father Tran Xuan Thao, a member of the Standing Committee of the provincial CSVC for many years, some diocesan priests also participate as members or senior dignitaries in the new session's standing committee, such as Father Ngo Cong Su (head of Gia Kiem Deanery), Father Pham Duc Thanh (Ho Nai Ward), and Father Pham Son Lam (parish priest of Long Khanh Cathedral).
This indicates that in Xuan Loc, the local bishops have allowed these priests to participate in the CSVC. This view may also be shared by the bishops of the Xuan Loc Diocese, who consider the Committee a discreet dialogue channel between the local church and the government.
In contrast to the Xuan Loc diocese, in Ha Tinh Province, the number of priests participating in the Standing Committee of the provincial CSVC is minimal.
Specifically, during the National Congress of Vietnamese Catholics to Build and Protect the Fatherland in Ha Tinh Province for the 2023-2028 term, held on June 23, 2023, no priests from the Ha Tinh Diocese were present, aside from Father Tran Xuan Manh, the current chairman of the provincial CSVC. 
Even the Standing Committee of the provincial CSVC in Ha Tinh lacked the presence of priests. Specifically, at the congress, Le Van Dung, deputy director of the provincial general hospital, held the position of chairman of CSVC, who was not a priest. Nguyen Van Luan, deputy chairman of the 7th term of the provincial Committee, continued to serve as the deputy chairman of the 8th term and was not a priest. 
Regarding the voting process, choosing individuals for this organization must go through consultation rounds organized by its members. However, in practice, the final results still have to be recognized by the government, which has the authority to approve. 
Since establishing the National Catholic Liaison Committee, the Holy See has consistently opposed this organization.
On March 11, 1955, at the Hanoi Nunciature, after hearing about the formation of the National Catholic Liaison Committee, Apostolic Delegate John Dooley sent Document No. 1024/89 to the dioceses in the north to affirm that the activities of this organization did not belong to the Church and were not permitted by the Holy See. 
On May 7, 1955, at the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Fumasoni Biondi, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, sent Document No. 1810/55 to the bishops in Vietnam, warning them that this organization had exceeded the authority of the bishops. 
The warnings from Vatican officials indicate their concern about the harm that this organization can bring to the Vietnam Catholic Church. This was evidenced by the canonization of 117 Vietnamese martyrs by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
In Vietnam, the government believed the canonization was a move by the Vatican against their rule. Therefore, on Sept. 18, 1987, and Oct. 12, 1987, the Vietnam Government Committee for Religious Affairs opposed the Holy See by summoning the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam and sending letters to the People's Committees and the Religious Committees of the provinces. 
Many priests of the CSVC, a social organization under the Vietnamese Fatherland Front's management, obeyed the government's direction to oppose and obstruct this canonization.  
On April 18, 1982, a year before the establishment of the Congress of the Vietnam Committee for Patriotic Catholic Solidarity, L’Observater Romano newspaper, the semi-official mouthpiece of the Holy See, published a commentary warning that this organization was causing divisions and interfering with the activities of bishops in Vietnam. Previously, the Sacred Congregation of the Priests had issued a statement titled “On Some Associations and Movements that Priests are not Allowed to Participate in.” 
On May 20, 1992, two years after this organization changed its name to the Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state of the Holy See, sent a letter to Bishop Nguyen Minh Nhat, who was then the Bishop of Xuan Loc Diocese, and also the Chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, reminding him to be cautious about the CSVC. 
In that same year, during the consecration ceremony of Bishop Cao Dinh Thuyen in Vinh City (Nghe An Province), Bishop Nguyen Minh Nhat proposed that the bishops in the Vietnam Hierarchy should take responsibility for watchdogging the CSVC in their managed localities and report to the Holy See the names of priests who are part of this organization.
In 2011, for the first time, the Holy See appointed a non-resident to represent the Vatican in Vietnam, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli. He was later succeeded by Archbishop Marek Zalewski in 2018. Neither has officially visited the CSVC.
As of July 2023, when Vietnam and the Vatican ratified the Agreement on Regulations on Operation of the Resident Papal Representative and the Office of the Resident Representative of the Holy See in Vietnam, the CSVC remains an organization outside the Church.
Even the government recognizes that this organization does not have a legitimate role in the Church, does not belong to the Church, and, of course, is not recognized by the ecclesiastical authority. 
From the actions of the Holy See, it can be concluded that the Vatican considers the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam the only legitimate and reliable organization. In addition, it does not recognize any other religious organizations, especially those established by the Vietnamese government.
In nearly 80 years since the Vietnam Catholic Association for National Salvation was established, this organization has consistently followed the path of an independent church managed by the state.
For 33 years since changing its name to the Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics, this organization has not been a real threat to the Catholic Church. In addition to the reasons mentioned above, the Vietnamese Catholics only show their loyalty to the Holy See through the representatives of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam.
Catholicism in Vietnam may currently enjoy a relatively lenient stance from the government, a situation that might be perceived as fortunate. However, this is a transient state. As long as the Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics remains in operation and the government continues to advocate for establishing a church that operates independently of the Holy See, the future of the Vietnamese Catholic Church appears challenging. It may continue to bear the burden of its trials, akin to carrying its own Cross, as it navigates its path forward.
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