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Apr 11, 2024 / 04:22

Vatican diplomat's visit to Vietnam: Chance to witness development of Catholic community

Vietnam and the Holy See are believed to nourish the result of going a long way together to get more abundantly rewarded.

The first visit to Vietnam by Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, is an opportunity for the top diplomat to witness the development of the Catholic community in the Southeast Asian country. 

 Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations in Hanoi on April 9. Photo: VGP

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh told Paul Richard Gallagher at the meeting in Hanoi on April 10.

The Prime Minister said he believed that the visit would be successful following the meetings with Vietnamese high-ranking officials and the visits to the Catholic Churches across Vietnam during the secretary’s trip on Aril 9-14.

As planned, Paul Richard Gallagher will celebrate Mass at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Hanoi, the Catholic Metropolitan Archdiocese of Hue and the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City, and meet with the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam.

On April 9 and 10, Archbishop Gallagher met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son and Minister of Home Affairs Pham Thi Thanh Tra, and is scheduled to meet with Vietnam's Government Committee on Religious Affairs.

Vietnam supports religious freedom

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh affirmed that Vietnam has a consistent policy to guarantee and respect religious freedom through a refined legal system.

He said Vietnam is home to 27 million religious followers, or 27% of the total population, including 7.2 million Catholics.

He expected the Catholic community in Vietnam to promote the spirit of "Respect God, Love Country", to obey the law and the policies of the Party and the State, and to contribute to national unity.

Chinh believed that relations between Vietnam and the Holy See would reach new heights based on mutual understanding and sincere dialogues.

The Prime Minister highly appreciated the persistent exchanges and interactions of high-ranking officials of both sides, as well as the results of the efforts of the Vietnam-Vatican Joint Working Group.

According to Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the decision of the two sides to upgrade their relations with the appointment of the Holy See's Permanent Representative in Vietnam is a turning point that demonstrates the result of fruitful discussions held in an atmosphere of mutual respect, cooperation, and understanding.

This is another example of how the Vietnamese government consistently promotes an environment conducive to religious practice, especially Catholicism.

Strides in relations

The visit takes place in the context of Vietnam-Vatican relations, which have seen many recent advances, especially since the two sides established the Vietnam-Vatican Joint Working Group in 2009 as a regular forum for dialogue.

In December 2023, Pope Francis appointed Archbishop Marek Zalewski as the first permanent representative of the Holy See in Vietnam, following the Vietnamese President's visit to the Vatican in July 2023. During the visit, the two sides approved regulations for the functioning of the Vatican's Permanent Representative and Resident Office in Vietnam.

Paul Richard Gallagher expressed his appreciation for Vietnam's socio-economic development and diplomatic achievements, which are partly contributed by the Catholic community in the country. He believed that Catholics expect and can contribute more to national construction.

He highlighted the progress made in the relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, marked by the exchange of high-level visits and the active work of the Joint Working Group. The 11th meeting of the Joint Working Group is expected to take place in Hanoi.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh agreed with Secretary Paul Richard Gallagher to promote the exchange of high-level visits, including the visit of Pope Francis. If things go as expected, it would be Pope Francis' first visit to Vietnam since his papacy began in 2013.

At today's meeting with Minister of Home Affairs Pham Thi Thanh Tra, he said the two sides must continue to nurture and care for the results of their long journey together to better understand each other in order to reap more bountiful harvests.