Vatican, Vietnam Set Schedule for Enhancing Relations

HANOI, Vietnam, JUNE 16, 2008 ( A Vatican delegation led by the undersecretary for relations with states left Vietnam after gaining agreement on a timetable for enhancing bilateral relations.

Monsignor Pietro Parolin and the Holy See delegation were in Vietnam for their annual visit June 9-15. They met with Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem and with Vietnamese government officials headed by Committee for Religious Affairs Chairman Nguyen The Doanh.

The delegation also met with representatives of the Vietnam bishops' council.

According to Vietnam's official news agency, VNA: "The two sides agreed to a timetable for enhancing bilateral relations and also agreed such discussions should be held in the spirit of mutual trust and respect.

"They concurred that all future negotiations would be frank, open and constructive."

Vietnam is about 7% Catholic. The Church does not have diplomatic relations with the communist nation, though in January 2007, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made a historic visit to Benedict XVI. The Vatican press office then described the visit as making "a new and important step toward the normalization of bilateral relations."

However, tensions in Vietnam heightened at the end of 2007 and earlier this year, when Catholics launched prayer vigils to protest the seizure of Church property by the government.