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Archbishop Gallagher announces April visit to Vietnam

PAUL RICHARD GALLAGHER

RICCARDO DE LUCA I ANADOLU AGENCY

I.Media - published on 01/23/24

Last year, Vietnam and the Vatican reached an agreement on the presence of a “pontifical resident representative,” named by Pope Francis last December 23, 2024.
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The meeting between Pope Francis and a delegation from the Communist Party of Vietnam on January 18, 2024, was “very positive,” said Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, on the sidelines of a conference at the Holy See Press Office. The British archbishop said that he himself would be visiting the Asian country in April. He welcomed the improvement in bilateral relations in recent years and said that Pope Francis had also expressed a wish to make a trip there. 

Warming relations between Vietnam and the Vatican

Less than a month after the appointment of the first “pontifical resident representative” in Vietnam, Archbishop Marek Zalewski, on December 23, Pope Francis received some 15 members of the ruling Vietnamese Communist Party.

“We are very confident that (this meeting) can be very beneficial for the Catholic community in Vietnam, the bishops, the clergy, and the people, and also for our relations,” Archbishop Gallagher assured the press. 

The Vatican’s “foreign minister” emphasized Vietnam’s “renewal,” particularly in its relations with the international community and with the Church. “We also hope to encourage them towards greater religious freedom,” he added, noting that this freedom present in the Constitution was “still under construction.”

A papal visit soon?

Archbishop Gallagher also announced that he would be visiting Vietnam next April, and that Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin would probably also be going “later in the year.” On the other hand, regarding a papal trip, “there are stages to go through before that.” Nonetheless, Pope Francis “wants to go,” he said. “It would be a good message for the region,” he added. 

On his return flight from Mongolia on September 4, the Argentine pontiff expressed the view that there would “surely” be an apostolic journey to Vietnam in years to come. However, he postulated that it could be carried out by “John XXIV” — the name he imagines for his successor.

The Pope also praised the “very open dialogue” that exists between the Holy See and the Southeast Asian country. The recent improvement in diplomatic exchanges, he said, was “one of the most beautiful experiences made by the Church in recent times.”

Steps forward for the small Catholic community

On July 27, 2023, the Pontiff received the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vo Van Thuong, at the Vatican. Hanoi and Rome then officially announced the conclusion of an “Agreement on the Status of the Resident Papal Representative” and on his office in Vietnam. This was hailed as a step forward, even if the joint communiqué did not refer to an “apostolic nuncio” and did not announce the establishment of formal diplomatic relations—broken off in 1975. 

Pope Francis with Vietnam's President Vo Van Thuong
Pope Francis exchanging gifts with Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong (2ndL) and his wife Phan Thi Thanh Tam (L) following a private audience at The Vatican on July 27, 2023.

Following this announcement, last September Pope Francis sent a letter “to the Catholic community of Vietnam” — which represents 7% of the population — welcoming the recent improvement in relations between the Holy See and the government. The country’s Catholic faithful, the Pontiff emphasized in his letter, can fully realize their identity by being “good Christians and good citizens.”

In a letter reported by AsiaNews on December 15, President Vo Van Thuong officially invited the Pontiff to visit his country. Should a trip materialize, Pope Francis would be the first pope to visit Vietnam.

Tags:
DiplomacyVaticanVietnam
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