21 October 2014, The Tablet

Francis' meeting with Vietnam's PM a 'step towards diplomatic relations'

The Prime Minister of Vietnam met Pope Francis on Saturday in an apparent sign of thawing Vatican relations with the Communist world.

Nguyen Tan Dung was received by Pope Francis before meeting Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.

The Vatican described the conversations as “cordial”, adding that the meetings marked “an important step in the process of strengthening bilateral relations between the Holy See and Vietnam”.

Prime Minister Dung visited the Vatican once before, in 2007.

The Vatican and Vietnam until now have no official diplomatic ties although civil servants have been working towards establishing relations with a fifth “working group” reporting “positive progress” last month after meetings in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

Communist Vietnam does not recognise religious freedom and dozens of priests, pastors and church leaders are detained in prison camps. Christians cannot meet without the permission of the Government and all religious publishing is vetted through a government agency.

The Vatican’s statement noted that Saturday’s discussions highlighted the Catholic Church’s commitment to contributing to the Vietnam’s development.

It noted that the mission of the non-resident Papal Representative of the Holy See to Vietnam is “aimed at promoting relations between Church and State with a view also to the common objective of diplomatic relations.”

Todd Nettleton, of the advocacy group Voice of the Martyrs, said that most government leaders in Vietnam “certainly consider Christianity a ‘Western’ religion and see it as a threat to communist rule or even a form of espionage from the West designed to undermine their power.”

Pope Francis has made repeated overtures to communist China and said that he would visit “as soon as tomorrow.”

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99