Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, Communication between American Tribunals and Tribunals in Vietnam, 1998.

The Apostolic Signatura was asked to give guidance concerning communication between American tribunals and tribunals in Vietnam, particularly for cases in which the marriage was celebrated in Vietnam and the respondent’s domicile is in Vietnam. Although this issue has been treated in other editions of Roman Replies (cf., See Roman Replies 1981, 13-19; Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions 1986, 30-33; 1987, 63-64; 1988, 22-24; 1989, 32-33; 1990, 35), this entry is helpful because it reflects recent experience in corresponding with tribunals in Vietnam. The inquiry and the Apostolic Signatura’s response are English originals.

His Eminence Gilberto Cardinal Agustoni, Prefect

Supremum Signaturae Apostolicae Tribunal

Piazza della Cancelleria

00120 Città del Vaticano

Your Eminence:

Many first instance tribunals have asked for advice regarding communication with tribunals in Vietnam, especially for cases in which

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the place of marriage and the respondent’s domicile are in Vietnam. Tribunals which have communicated with dioceses in Vietnam have received confusing responses. The political climate in Vietnam seems to have changed, but we do not know the condition of the tribunals in Vietnam nor the safest method of communication with the bishops or judicial vicars there. We are most concerned that the rights of defense of the parties will be protected and also that no one in Vietnam will be harmed because of communication with our tribunals.

We would be grateful for your permission to photocopy your letter of reply for the first instance tribunals to use as a reference.

Thank you in advance for your kind efforts to advise us.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Judicial Vicar

Response from the Signatura:

Dear Father,

This Supreme Tribunal has received your letter with which you ask for advice on behalf of several other tribunals concerning “communication with tribunals in Vietnam, especially for cases in which the place of marriage and the Respondent’s domicile are in Vietnam.” This advice is requested because the tribunals “do not know the condition of the tribunals in Vietnam nor the safest method of communication with the bishops or judicial vicars there.”

The Apostolic Signatura would like to offer the following advice:

* In recent years both the Apostolic Signatura and local tribunals in the United States and Europe have been able to exchange letters directly with bishops and tribunal officials in Vietnam, although the mail can be slow and patience in required.

* Even when a particular diocese does not have a functioning tribunal, the church officials there have often been able to locate respondents and witnesses and to take their judicial testimony.

* In their correspondence concerning the various cases referred to the Apostolic Signatura, the church officials in Vietnam have not indicated that such activity posed a danger to the persons involved.

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* If persistent efforts to contact the competent church authorities in Vietnam are unsuccessful, or if those authorities state that there is no functioning tribunal available to judge a case, the matter can be referred to the Apostolic Signatura.

* If a petitioner wishes to ask the Apostolic Signatura to extend the competence of a tribunal in the United States to hear a case in place of the tribunal in Vietnam which would be competent by law, it is important to include with the request as much information as possible about the case, in particular:

– the libellus and the grounds of nullity alleged;

– the list of witnesses and where they are to be found;

– the diocese in Vietnam where the marriage was celebrated;

– the response of the bishop or judicial vicar of the respondent, especially concerning (a) the impossibility of hearing the case in Vietnam, and (b) the opinion of the respondent about the proposed judgement of the case in the United States;

– if the respondent could not be located, the documentation concerning the efforts made to find him or her;

– any other particular circumstances which would recommend the granting of this favor.

The present letter can be shared with other tribunals in the United States and can be shown to persons who approach those tribunals. Furthermore, the Apostolic Signatura hereby grants permission for it to be published in Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions and Canon Law Digest.

Taking this occasion to express my cordial best wishes, I remain

Sincerely yours in the Lord,

Gilberto Card. Agustoni


Zenon Grocholewski


RRAO (1998): 33-35.