Vatican City, Oct 18, 2014 / 02:49 pm .- Pope Francis met with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung Saturday morning, which is a move seen as a important step in strengthening ties between the Vatican and Vietnam.
A statement released by the Vatican regarding the Oct. 18 encounter explained that during their “cordial conversations,” the Pope and the prime minister both expressed satisfaction in the meeting’s discussion.
Described as “an important step in the process of strengthening bilateral relations between the Holy See and Vietnam,” the meeting marks the second visit of Nguyen to the Vatican, the first being to meet with Benedict XVI in 2007.
In their discussion, Pope Francis and Nguyen spoke of the Church’s committed contributions to the development of Vietnam, thanks in large to the Church’s presence in various fields that are beneficial society as a whole.
According to the Vatican statement, there was a “sincere appreciation” expressed on the part of the Holy See for the support given to the Catholic community by Vietnamese authorities in wake of developments regarding religious policy sanctioned by the drafting of Vietnam’s new constitution in 2013.
The Holy See also voiced gratitude for the assistance given to the non-resident Papal Representative of the Holy See to Vietnam in the execution of his mission, “which is aimed at promoting relations between Church and State with a view also to the common objective of diplomatic relations.”
Diplomatic relations between the two states were dissolved in 1975, when the communist north overran South Vietnam. However, since then the visits of more than 20 Vatican delegations led to Nguyen’s 2007 visit with Benedict XVI.
After the 2007 meeting, the Holy See and Vietnam began talks to re-establish diplomatic ties; the following year, the Holy See was allowed, for the first time in decades, to appoint seven new bishops in Vietnam.
And in 2009, a joint Vietnam-Holy See working group was established to work toward formal diplomatic ties.
Continuing talks led to the appointment of Archbishop Girelli as non-resident special envoy to Vietnam in 2011.
The following year, Nguyen Phu Trong, secretary of the Vietnamese communist party, visited Benedict XVI, thus showing the sincere with of Vietnamese authorities to normalize diplomatic relations.
In their meeting, Pope Francis and Nguyen also spoke of certain issues which, it is hoped, “will be further examined and resolved through the existing channels of dialogue.”
Discussion also gave way to an exchange of the parties’ views on a few current regional and international issues, with special emphasis given to initiatives aimed at the promotion of peace and stability throughout the Asian continent.
Further improvements on the diplomatic side of relations between Vietnam and the Holy See are expected for the sixth meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group, which held its fifth meeting in September.