Pontiff Receives Vietnamese President

Visit Is a 1st for the Communist Country

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI became the first Pope to receive the leader of Communist Vietnam in an audience at the Vatican, the Holy See is reporting.

A communiqué issued today by the Vatican press office reported that the Pope received Nguyen Minh Triet, and noted that the 40-minute meeting represented «a significant stage» in establishing closer ties with the nation.

«The Holy See expressed its pleasure at the visit,» the noted said, calling it «a significant stage in the progress of bilateral relations with Vietnam, and expressed the hope that outstanding questions may be resolved as soon as possible.»

The Vatican added that the «cordial» discussions touched on «certain themes concerning co-operation between Church and state,» and took into account the message Benedict XVI sent to the Church in Vietnam for the opening of the current Jubilee Year.

The year marks 350 years since the establishment of its first two apostolic vicariates and 50 years since the hierarchy was put in place. In the French-language message issued last month, the Holy Father encouraged the faithful of the country to engage in «a profound evangelization that will lead the whole of Vietnamese society to the evangelical values of charity, truth, justice and rectitude.»


The Vatican communiqué noted that Benedict XVI and Triet also spoke of «the current international situation, with particular reference to the commitment of Vietnam and of the Holy See in the multilateral field.»

In recent years, tensions have risen between the Catholic Church and authorities in Vietnam, mainly over government seizures of church property.

In June, upon receiving in audience bishops from Vietnam, Benedict XVI noted that a «healthy collaboration between the Church and the political community is possible.»

After the papal audience, Triet met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Pope’s secretary of state, who was accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.

There are an estimated 6 million Catholics in Vietnam, which constitutes 8% of the population and makes it the largest Catholic community in Asia.

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