Pope Francis has expressed his desire to visit Vietnam following a positive meeting with a delegation of representatives from the Communist Party of Vietnam.
The audience, held on Thursday morning at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, marks a significant step in strengthening relations between the Holy See and Vietnam.
In a press briefing, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, described the meeting as “positive,” indicating the potential for improved bilateral relations and expressing hope for positive outcomes for the Catholic community.
Among the noteworthy developments is the appointment of the Apostolic Nuncio in Singapore, Polish Archbishop Marek Zalewski, as the papal representative resident in Vietnam. The agreement for this appointment was signed in December 2023 during President Vo Van Thuong’s visit to the Vatican.
Archbishop Gallagher highlighted that he is scheduled to visit Vietnam in April, with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin planning a visit within the year. These visits are seen as part of a gradual approach to further diplomatic initiatives between the Holy See and Vietnam.
Regarding a potential visit by Pope Francis to Vietnam, Archbishop Gallagher expressed optimism, stating, “Yes, I think there will be. But there are a couple of steps to be taken before that is appropriate.”
He emphasized that both the Pope and the Catholic community are eager for such a visit, viewing it as a positive message for the entire region.
Pope Francis himself, on his return from a trip to Mongolia in September, had hinted at the possibility of a visit to Vietnam.
The Pope said, “If I don’t go, for sure John XXIV will go,” expressing his sympathy for the country and describing Vietnam as a “beautiful experience of dialogue.”
The Pope had previously sent a letter to the Church in Vietnam in September, encouraging Vietnamese Catholics to be “good Christians and good citizens” and to promote dialogue and religious freedom in the country.
Relations between Vietnam and the Holy See had faced challenges since 1975 but have witnessed positive developments since 1990.
The recent appointments and discussions indicate a renewed effort to foster collaboration and understanding between the Catholic Church and Vietnam, potentially paving the way for a historic visit by Pope Francis in the future. – with reports from Vatican News