Vietnamese premier to see Pope on January 25
Nguyễn Tấn Dũng will be the first top official of the Hanoi government to be received by the Pope. They will discuss normalising diplomatic relations, which currently do not exist.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Benedict XVI will receive Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng on January 25 in what is the first meeting between a top government official from that country and a Pope, unofficial Vatican sources report.

This morning, Vietnam’s government confirmed the original date to the Vatican, which some thought might change.

Before Mr Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, the last time Vietnamese government officials visited the Vatican was on June 27 and July 2, 2005. At the time, both parties expressed “hope for a quick move towards the normalisation” of relations.

Previously, Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Khoan had visited the Apostolic Palaces on November 29, 2002, to meet then Secretary of State Card Angelo Sodano, and John Paul II’s “foreign minister,” Mgr Jean-Louis Tauran.

Other, more confidential, meetings had taken place in the 1990s.

By contrast, visits to Vietnam by delegations of the Holy See have been more numerous, 14 altogether, at almost regular intervals, the latest taking in November 2005, led by the prefect of the Congregation for the evangelization of peoples, Card Crescenzio Sepe, who met Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Khoan.

Cardinal Sepe’s trip followed the Vietnamese government’s decision to accept the creation of the new diocese of Ba Ria. During that same trip, the prelate ordained 57 new priests in Hanoi.

Upon his return from a mission to Vietnam in May 2004, Mgr Pietro Parolin, Vatican “foreign affairs” undersecretary, said “how on more than one occasion the Vietnamese side stressed its intention to put the past behind and look forward to the future with confidence”.

In terms of Vatican-Vietnam relations, “the deeply felt condolences to the Vatican, the world’s Catholic community and Vietnam’s Catholic faithful” which the government of Vietnam expressed in a note sent by then Prime Minister Pham Van Khai to the secretary of state, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, upon the death of John Paul I was a significant step.

On that occasion, the authorities allowed Hanoi Cathedral to set up a maxi screen to give people an opportunity follow the Pope’s funeral ceremony. (FP)

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