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Pope meets Communist leader from Vietnam for first time

By on Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Vietnam's ruling Communist Party held a congress in Hanoi last year in which Nguyen Phu Trong was elected leader (Photo: PA)

Vietnam's ruling Communist Party held a congress in Hanoi last year in which Nguyen Phu Trong was elected leader (Photo: PA)

Diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Vietnam were strengthened yesterday when Pope Benedict XVI met Nguyen Phu Trong. It is the first time a pope has met the general secretary of the nation’s Communist Party.

Mr Trong, who has been general secretary of the party’s central committee party since 2011, was accompanied by an 11-person delegation of other high-level party and government officials. The Vatican was one of a number of stops the delegation had planned in Europe.

The Pope and Mr Trong held closed-door talks for half an hour. The party official was treated with all the pomp and circumstance of a typical head-of-state visit, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told journalists after the meeting.

The two also exchanged gifts. Mr Trong presented the Pope an engraved tray with mother of pearl inlay, and the Pope gave him a picture of the Casina Pio IV villa in the Vatican Gardens.

The general secretary and his delegation then met Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Vatican secretary for relations with states, and other officials from the Secretariat of State.

Discussions were “cordial”, “very serene and very constructive,” Fr Lombardi said.

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.

The two sides expressed hopes that “some pending situations could be resolved soon” and that the “current fruitful collaboration” may be strengthened, the Vatican said in a written statement.

The Holy See and Vietnam have launched a process aimed at full diplomatic relations; there is a non-resident papal representative to the country, and the two sides are engaged in ongoing talks.

The Vatican and Vietnam established a formal committee to discuss diplomatic relations after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met Pope Benedict in 2007. That meeting marked the first time a prime minister from Vietnam’s communist government met a pope and top officials from the Vatican Secretariat of State.

Another major step in the process was Pope Benedict’s meeting with Vietnamese president Nguyen Minh Triet in 2009.

Soon after that meeting, the two sides agreed to the appointment of a papal representative who – for the time being – would not be residing in Vietnam, but the move was still seen as a first step toward diplomatic relations. That representative, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, was named in January 2011.

For years, top Vatican diplomats made annual trips to Vietnam to work out details of the Church’s life in the country and for decades Church leaders, particularly from the US and France, have visited at the invitation of Vietnamese bishops.

  • Patrick_Hadley

    It is odd that this meeting takes place almost exactly on the 10th anniversary of the murder of Mgr Peter Dao Duc Diem. He was a very devout and holy priest who having fled Vietnam as one of the “boat people” became a truly inspirational leader to Vietnamese Catholics in this country. He had never dared to return to his homeland until 2003 when he made a visit incognito in order to see remaining family. He was brutally murdered in Hue in circumstances that have never been explained. The Vietnamese community in this country are convinced that he was assassinated by someone acting on behalf of the government. I hope that the Holy Father has asked for a full investigation in Fr Peter’s murder.

  • Scholar

    Open Letter to Benedict XVI:-
    Dearest Holy Father,
    Do the same with China…Merge the underground and patriotic churches. Why have some fistinctions.
    Agree that bishops can approved by both parties -the Vatican and the PRC Government.
    Appoint more nuncios in the region. In the past one man handled 7-8 countries. he can hardly do a good job and the travel too and from diverse destinations is very streneous.
    The church is thriving in Asia. The church and missionary orders should put a lot MORE effort here – PRC, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar.
    Yours in christ,
    Catholic scholar

  • Hoannguyen50

    this going to be last pope will be name as PETRUS ROMANO,the present pope involved to deep with the Vietnamese communist now they control the Vatican,that why he has step down due to out of control of the church