Holy See and Vietnam Progress Towards Diplomatic Relations

Pope Francis and Vietnam President Vo Van Thuong at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, 27 July 2023 | Vatican Media / ACI Group

In a significant move towards establishing full diplomatic relations, the Holy See and Vietnam have agreed to work towards the establishment of a Resident Papal Representative in Hanoi. 

This development was announced Thursday during a visit to the Vatican by Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong.

The Holy See Press Office issued a statement on July 27 following the meeting of the Holy See-Vietnam Joint Working Group in Hanoi. 

"The two parties agreed that relations between Vietnam and the Holy See should be maintained on mutually agreed-upon principles and fruitful dialogue, with the objective of consolidating reciprocal trust and strengthening relations in the common interest of the two parties and the Vietnamese Catholic community."

On the issue of a permanent presence of a Vatican diplomat in Vietnam, the statement notes that the "two delegations agreed upon issues relevant to raising, in the near future, the level of relations between Vietnam and the Holy See from a non-resident to a Resident Pontifical Representative and agreed on future steps to be undertaken to establish an office of the Resident Pontifical Representative in Hanoi."


Vietnam, which has never had formal diplomatic relations with the Vatican, has formally agreed to work towards allowing a Vatican representative to live in the country and open an office. The current papal representative to Vietnam, Archbishop Marek Zalewski, is based in Singapore, where he is the Vatican nuncio (ambassador). He is allowed to make occasional working visits to Vietnam with government approval.

The identity of the new Hanoi-based representative has not been disclosed yet. 

Vietnam is home to nearly 7 million Catholics, about 6.6% of the population of 95 million. The communist country's constitution permits restrictions on religious freedom in the stated interest of national security and social unity. 

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a congressional watchdog, has placed Vietnam on its list of "countries of particular concern".

The Vietnamese government continues to enforce the Law on Belief and Religion, which mandates religious organizations to register with the state, and has been known to harass unregistered religious groups. 

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Particularly, ethnic minority communities face severe persecution for the peaceful practice of their religious beliefs, including physical assault, detention, or banishment.