Pope, Vietnamese Prime Minister to hold meeting, amidst thawing relations

.- An upcoming meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Jan. 25 at the Vatican is an important sign of improving relations between the Vatican and Hanoi’s Communist government.

This is the highest-level meeting ever to be scheduled between the Catholic Church and the government of Vietnam.

Since becoming pope in 2005, Benedict has said he wants to formalize ties in Asia to countries which currently lack diplomatic relations with the Holy See, especially Vietnam and China. In a speech Monday to diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Benedict hailed Vietnam's adhesion to the World Trade Organization, which it officially joined on Thursday, reported The Associated Press.

Vietnam has six million Catholics; after the Philippines, it has the largest Catholic population of any Asian country, according to the AP.

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