Vatican and Vietnam relations take major step forward

Vatican and Vietnam

The Vatican and Vietnam are finalising a deal that will help improve their long strained relations. Sources say the new deal will allow the Holy See to have a resident representative in communist-run Vietnam.

Both sources, a senior Vatican official and a Hanoi-based diplomat, say they think the deal’s formal announcement will take place later this month when President Võ Văn Thưởng visits the Vatican.

“We are hoping that this will mark a turning point,” the Vatican official says.

It’s been a decade since the Holy See asked Hanoi to permit a papal representative to live in Vietnam. An agreement in principle was reached last year.

Both the Vatican official and the Hanoi diplomat say they expect that Pope Francis will receive Võ. The last time Pope Francis received a Vietnamese president was when Tran Đại Quang visited in 2016.

There are nearly seven million Catholics in Vietnam. They make up just 6.6 percent of the 95 million population.

Vietnam’s relations with the Vatican broke off after the communists took over at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. The communist authorities considered the Catholic Church had been too close to Vietnam’s former colonial power, France.

Today, Vietnam’s papal nuncio Archbishop Marek Zalewski is based in Singapore. He makes occasional working visits to Vietnam with government approval.

UCA, an independent Catholic news agency, says Vietnam’s government places controls on some Catholic activities, such as the number of parishes.

Future focus

Vietnam’s constitution allows for freedom of religion.

Government media have rejected criticisms about this from groups such as the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. The Commission has added Vietnam to its list of “countries of particular concern”.

The establishment of a resident representative from the Holy See with Hanoi’s approval could lead to full diplomatic relations developing between the Vatican and Vietnam. Exactly when to expect that is unknown – though the current deal has been in the making since 2009.

At present the Vatican has diplomatic relations with about 180 countries.


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