Vietnam-Vatican relations at historic moment: Deputy Minister

Pope Francis’s appointment of Archbishop Marek Zalewski as the first Resident Papal Representative in Vietnam marks a historic moment in the diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the Vatican, said Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang.

At the meeting between President Vo Van Thuong and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Vatican (Photo: VNA)

In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) on December 24, the Deputy Minister noted that Pope Francis’s letter to the People of God in Vietnam in September and the appointment of the Resident Papal Representative have opened up a new chapter in the relations between Vietnam and the Vatican in general and between the Vietnam Catholic Church and the Universal Church in particular.

Thang recalled that in the letter, Pope Francis urged Vietnamese Catholics to be “good Christians and good citizens.” The pope also noted that the intention of the Church "is certainly not to replace government leaders, as well as emphasised the spirit of great national unity and religious solidarity.

The deputy minister held that leaving disagreements and differences in history behind, Vietnam and the Vatican now head towards comprehensive diplomatic ties.

The official affirmed that under the consistent foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, development, diversification and multilateralisation of relations, and being a friend, a reliable partner of countries worldwide, and a responsible member of the international community, and with the goal of maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for socio-economic development and expanding foreign relations to create more resources for national development, the upgrade of relations with the Vatican is evidence of the Vietnamese Party’s and State’s sound foreign and religious policies in national renewal, and also the result of the method and process of dialogue that the two sides have implemented together since 1990.

Vietnam attaches importance to and stands ready to promote its relations with the Vatican on the basis of respecting independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, not interfering in each other’s internal affairs, and actively contributing to peace, cooperation and development in the world, Thang went on.

The official said bilateral relations have seen positive progress. In 2011, the Vietnamese Government agreed with the Holy See’s proposal to send a non-resident Special Envoy to Vietnam. The special envoy has so far come to Vietnam hundreds of times, visiting and carrying out pastoral activities in all 63 cities and provinces in the country, guiding religious followers to conduct pure religious activities and comply with Vietnamese law.

The upgrade of the resident representative status does not put an end to the relations but opens up new space for the bilateral ties, he stressed, adding that issues related to the relationship will be discussed quickly and directly through the Resident Papal Representative.

The Resident Papal Representative will also have favourable conditions to carry out his tasks and responsibilities assigned by the Holy See regarding Vietnamese Catholics and pay more attention to the religious activities of the Vietnam Catholic Church, Thang said.

The official stressed that the upgrade of the relations not only demonstrates the sound foreign policy of the Vietnamese Party and State, but also reflects Vietnam’s recognition of the Vatican's goodwill and positive guidance towards Vietnamese Catholics, as well as the Vietnamese Party and State's attention to Catholic followers, encouraging dignitaries and followers to observe the law and support all-level authorities.

He was confident in what the Pope wrote in the letter that “both sides have been able to move forward together and further progress will be possible, recognising convergences and respecting differences. Moreover, the participants were able to walk together, listening to each other and arriving at a mutual understanding.”

He also expressed a belief that the relations between Vietnam and the Vatican as well as between the Universal Church and the Vietnam Catholic Church will grow further in the time ahead.

The deputy minister added that President Vo Van Thuong’s invitation to Pope Francis to visit Vietnam reflects the Vietnamese State’s goodwill. "The Vietnamese State, the Vietnam Catholic Church and Vietnamese people are all delighted at the news and look forward to the visit by the Pope.

The Holy See on December 23 announced that Archbishop Marek Zalewski has been appointed by Pope Francis as the first Resident Papal Representative in Vietnam.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a notice on December 24 that the appointment is expected to help promote the connections between the Vatican and the Catholic Church in Vietnam, as well as opinion exchanges between Vietnam and the Holy See.

Right after this announcement, Archbishop Giuse Nguyen Nang, President of Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, sent a letter to Cardinals, priests and Catholic followers, sharing the joy at the news ahead of Christmas 2023.

He expressed his belief that Archbishop Marek Zalewski will work as a diplomatic bridge, helping the Vietnam Catholic Church carry out diverse activities in service of the community.

Vietnam and the Holy See have recorded progress in bilateral relations, especially since they set up the regular dialogue mechanism of their Joint Working Group in 2009. Many meetings and discussions between Vietnamese leaders and the Holy See have taken place, most recently the meeting between Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong and Pope Francis in 2023.

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