Delegate Reflects Better Relations With Vietnam

Pope Notes Satisfaction at Gradual Improvements

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 14, 2011 (Zenit.org).- In a move that shows improving relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, Benedict XVI has appointed a “non-residential pontifical representative” for the Asian country. 

Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, 57, had been the apostolic nuncio in Indonesia. Along with the Vietnam post, he is now also apostolic nuncio in Singapore and apostolic delegate in Malaysia and Brunei.

Vietnam and the Holy See do not have full diplomatic relations, which were interrupted with the communist take-over. However, while not a nuncio, the pontifical representative implies a further step in deepening relations between the two entities.

Benedict XVI noted the advance last Monday during his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. “I would like to point out with satisfaction that the Vietnamese authorities have accepted my appointment of a Representative who will express the solicitude of the Successor of Peter by visiting the beloved Catholic community of that country,” he said.

Improved relations come after two meetings of the joint working group between Vietnam and the Vatican, as well as visits from Vietnamese officials to the Vatican and vice versa. 

Nevertheless, Vietnam is still seen as oppressing religious freedom, according to the annual report from the U.S. State Department. 

There are some 6 million Catholic Vietnamese, in a total population of almost 90 million, most of whom profess no religion. 

Biography 

Leopoldo Girelli was born in Predore, Italy, in 1953 and ordained a priest in 1978. He entered the Holy See’s diplomatic service in 1987, and has worked in the papal representations of Cameroon and New Zealand, as well as in the section for general affairs of the secretariat of state and in the apostolic nunciature in the United States. 

In 2006, he was appointed apostolic nuncio in Indonesia with the dignity of archbishop. On Oct. 16 of that year he was also assigned the nunciature in East Timor.

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