Is a papal visit to Vietnam on the horizon?

February 19, 2009

Could the Pope make a historic visit to commmunist Vietnam later this year?  A papal envoy hinted at this on Thursday, as Vietnam and the Vatican are seriously discussing establishing diplomatic ties. “This is my wish,” Vatican Undersecretary of State Monsignor Pietro Parolin told reporters when asked if he thought the Pope could visit the Southeast Asian country this year. He added that the question had not been discussed in meetings with the Foreign Ministry and government’s religious affairs committee.

(Photo: Priest outside a Hanoi court trying Catholics for illegal protests, 8 Dec 2008/stringer)

The papal envoy has been attending the first meeting of a joint working group on improving ties this week in Hanoi. He said the talks had made progress, but establishing ties was a process that will take time.

Roman Catholicism in Vietnam dates back centuries, even before French colonial rule. Now some 7 percent of mostly-Buddhist Vietnam’s population of 86 million are Catholic, making it one of the biggest Catholic communities in Asia.

Unlike in China, where the state keeps its thumb on religion through a Communist Party-backed “patriotic” church and organisations, there is no direct state intervention in Vietnam and Catholics are loyal to the Vatican.  That makes the Catholic church the largest organisation in Vietnam outside of the ruling Communist Party, which views the church as a threat to its monopoly on political power. The Vietnamese government keeps close tabs on religious organisations and curtails the activities of adherents.

Vietnam is one of only a handful of countries in the world with whom the Vatican does not have relations. In Asia, the others are China, North Korea, Laos, Malaysia and Myanmar.

(Photo: Newly ordained Hanoi Auxiliary Bishop Laurent Chu Van Minh blesses wellwishers, 5 Dec, 2008/Kham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

[…] The Pope to Vietnam? […]

Posted by Pseudo-Polymath » Blog Archive » Thursday Highlights | Report as abusive

[…] The Pope to Vietnam? […]

Posted by Stones Cry Out – If they keep silent… » Things Heard: e55v4 | Report as abusive

“there is no direct state intervention in Vietnam and Catholics are loyal to the Vatican” .

How many countryies in the world wants their people loyal to the pope and care about the vatican/church than their own countries ????
Is this the reason why many Vietnamese Catholic loyal to France/US than to Viet Nam in the past wars ?

Posted by Van Nguyen | Report as abusive

Too optimistic! A papal visit would only embellish the international prestige of the Vietnamese rulers.The Communists were crude paysans, now they have become gentlemen murderers. They entertain you in lavish parties, host you in 5 star hotels while aiming their cameras and voice recorders at you. You are condemned to be their slaves for life if you are caught in some faiblesses not proper to clerics, especially to envoys from the Vatican. They have no squirms to promise heaven and earth then have no shame breaking them.Please most caution is needed when we deal with Communists.

Posted by Anthony kiem | Report as abusive

I pray for the conversion of Communist Vietnam to Christ. The idolatry of State Worship must be abandoned for there is only one God where all things came from. The Church will always emerge triumphant and will be able to conquer its enemy in its battles without using force like what happened to pagan Rome.

Posted by Daniel Rosaupan | Report as abusive

The Viet Communists have changed their behavior out of their own selffish interest. They are basically godless liars who , under the pressure of the EU and the US are reaching out to Vatican to polish their image and to seek economic aids.

They simply hated the Catholics because of a long bloody conflict in which the Vietnamese Catholics have proved to be the most fervent anti- communists in the wolrd. The Viet Catholics have been the most faithful Christians. We have been loyal to our God, rather than to the goodless dictator Ho chi Minh who put his own commmunist party before the interest of Vietnamese people

Posted by Viet Tudo | Report as abusive

The Pope’s visit to Vietnam will be a slap on the face of all those anti-communist Vietnamese around the world. It will verify the fact that religious freedom in Vietnam is REAL, despite accusations. His visit will be welcome by christians in that peaceful country!

Posted by J Haviland | Report as abusive