With respect to the extension of political, economic, and religious freedom, East Asia contains some of the more challenging spots on the globe. I’ve commented in the past on Korea and China. It seems safe now to place in the column “making progress” a nation that had been one of the most totalitarian, Vietnam.

Concerning the sphere of religious freedom, Zenit offers this interview (Daily Dispatch 01-25) with French Archbishop Bernard-Nicolas Aubertin of Tours. Aubertin characterizes the situation of the Catholic Church in Vietnam thus: “Things are really progressing, slowly, perhaps, but advancing.” Here is one question and answer:

Q: The last visit of French bishops to Vietnam goes back to 1996. On your return, did you express admiration for the progress made by and for the Catholic community of Vietnam? Ten years later, do you feel that a step forward has been taken?

Archbishop Aubertin: Personally, I did not take part in that trip then, but I have visited Vietnam since 1990. And this trip, at the beginning of December, was my eighth stay. I have had the opportunity to witness enormous changes.

It is obvious that the Christian, the Catholic community, has greater possibilities of expression. Little by little, seminaries have authorization to reopen. Not all, of course, but there has been a change from contingents of extremely regulated seminarians to a much greater openness. And, little by little, a certain number of confiscated buildings and goods have been restored. Not all: We are still very far from that. But, little by little one can see that they have been restored to the Church.

Moreover, permissions have been given to build churches. The building of seminaries is permitted and authorizations for ordinations have been granted quite abundantly. All this shows that the Church is moving toward a much more favorable situation.

Concerning economic development (at the grassroots level), there’s this story.

But there’s also this, which indicates that progress is slow and uncertain.