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Vietnamese president’s visit to Vatican heralds prospects for stronger bilateral ties: diplomat

Vietnamese president’s visit to Vatican heralds prospects for stronger bilateral ties: diplomat

Friday, July 28, 2023, 13:29 GMT+7
Vietnamese president’s visit to Vatican heralds prospects for stronger bilateral ties: diplomat
Pope Francis receives Vietnamese State President Vo Van Thuong and his spouse in Vatican City on July 27, 2023.

A visit to the Vatican by Vietnamese State President Vo Van Thuong which commenced on Thursday will help open the door for new development prospects and the progression of ties between the Southeast Asian country and the Holy See, according to the Vietnamese foreign ministry.  

President Thuong, along with his spouse and entourage, arrived in Vatican City on Thursday afternoon (local time) for a visit at the invitation of Pope Francis following the former’s business trip to Italy earlier the same day.

The Vietnamese state leader and his wife were received by Pope Francis upon their arrival.

President Thuong was scheduled to meet Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, during the visit.

The visit to the Holy See, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, will open new prospects for the relationship between Vietnam and the Vatican in the future, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Thi Thu Hang told the press prior to the visit. 

The Vietnamese government maintains a consistent policy to respect and ensure the people’s freedom of belief and religion, as well as facilitate religious practices in general and Catholic activities in particular in Vietnam, the official stated. 

As the first high-level contact between the two sides in seven years, the visit is a significant event for the two countries to discuss steps toward promoting bilateral relations as well as Catholic activities in Vietnam, Hang commented.  

The Vietnam-Vatican ties have seen positive progress over the past several years, with both sides maintaining high-level contact as well as effectively implementing the Vietnam-Vatican Joint Working Group mechanism in 2008.

The Holy See has had a non-resident papal representative in Vietnam since 2011.

Currently, the position is held by Archbishop Marek Zalewski, Apostolic Nuncio to Singapore.

The archbishop visits Vietnam regularly, with his latest trip in mid-July 2023 to the Quy Nhon diocese in south-central Binh Dinh Province. 

In October 2018, Vietnam’s then-Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh visited the Vatican and participated in meetings with Pope Francis and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to discuss measures to promote cooperative relations between the two sides.

Vietnam and the Holy See have so far held 10 meetings, the latest of which took place in March 2023 when the two sides discussed and agreed on the operation mechanism for a resident papal representative as well as a future resident representative office in Vietnam.

Deputy Minister Hang believed that the positive development of the Vietnam-Vatican relationship will create many advantages to further promote connections with the Holy See and Vietnamese Catholics.

Catholicism has the second-largest number of religious followers in Vietnam

Vietnam has recognized 36 religious organizations belonging to 16 different religions, including Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Caodaism, Hoa Hao Buddhism, Islam, and others, according to the white paper 'Religion and Religious Policy in Vietnam' released by the Government Committee for Religious Affairs in March this year.

Among these religions, Catholicism has the second-largest number of followers with over seven million Catholics, after Buddhism with more than 14 million Buddhists.

In total, Vietnam is home to over 26.5 million religious followers (or 27 percent of its population), above 54,000 religious dignitaries, and nearly 29,700 places of worship.

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Vinh Tho - Duy Linh / Tuoi Tre News


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