.- The Holy See’s Undersecretary of State for Relations with States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, is making final preparations to lead a Vatican delegation on its visit to Hanoi Sunday. The delegation’s visit is the next step in an ongoing effort to reestablish diplomatic relations between Hanoi and the Vatican.
The trip comes after Vietnamese Prime Minster Nguyen Tan Dung’s January 25th visit to Pope Benedict XVI, at the Vatican. Monsignor Parolin and his entourage will visit with Vietnamese officials for a full week, from Sunday, March 4th to Sunday March 11th.
Relations between the Church and government of Vietnam have been tense for several years, especially since the end of the Vietnam War and the rise of Communism in the country.
As in Communist China, a majority of the disagreements stem from the government’s fear of granting full authority to the Church regarding its governance and appointment of bishops.
However, the Vatican released a statement following the prime minister’s visit, calling it, “a new and important step towards the normalization of bilateral relations.”
“Those relations have, over the last few years, made concrete progress, opening new doors of religious freedom for the Catholic Church in Vietnam,” the statement added.
According to the Vietnamese News Service the Vatican delegation will meet with the Vietnam Bishops Conference, visit some Vietnamese agencies, visit the Dioceses of Quy Nhon in the central coastal province, Binh Dinh and Kon Tum, in the province of the same name in Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands).
Due in large part to its history as a French Colony, primarily Buddhist Vietnam boasts a relatively large Catholic population. With about one-tenth of Vietnam's 84 million people professing the Catholic faith the country’s Catholic population is the second highest in Asia, following only the Philippines.