Holy See–Vietnam relations

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Holy See-Vietnam relations

Holy See


Holy See–Vietnam relations are foreign relations between the Holy See and Vietnam. Diplomatic relations have never been established between the two entities, but Vietnam is the only communist state in Asia to have unofficial and bilateral relations with Vatican.


While two countries only exist unofficial relations and dialogue, historical presence of Christianity in Vietnam has a relatively long history. The first Catholic missionary to Vietnam started at 15th century, but became only more frequent in 16th century with the arrival of French, Polish and Portuguese Jesuits. The Polish Jesuit, Wojciech Męciński, was the first ever Catholic to record the existence of Vietnam and Vietnamese culture.[1]

Catholic missions in Vietnam continued uninterrupted, but the most influential to make impact on the rise of Christian Church was Frenchman Alexandre de Rhodes. Father Alexandre had helped spreading Christianity, especially Catholicism in Vietnam; but the most was the creation of Vietnamese alphabet, called "Quốc Ngữ", which would be used in Vietnam since 20th century.[2] Under the era of the North's Trịnh lords and the South's Nguyễn lords, Christianity was viewed with skepticism in both, though the Trịnh lords were more hostile than its southern rival and had expelled Christians from the country.[3][4] The Nguyễn lords, while was not too opening either, seen to be more Christian-friendly than the Trịnh lords and Christianity became more widespread, resulted with the larger Christian population in the south than the north today.[5]

The Tây Sơn dynasty, founded after reunited Vietnam, began a level of persecution, though became even more serious under Emperor Cảnh Thịnh, who issued massacre on Christians.[6] Under the circumstance of oppression, Christians sought refuge in La Vang, where they reported about the Marian apparition in the same place, known today as Our Lady of La Vang.[7] Pope John Paul II had acknowledged the importance of La Vang and expressed desire to rebuild the Catholic Church, ruined during the Vietnam War.[8]

With the ascend of Emperor Gia Long, who founded the Nguyễn dynasty, Christianity in Vietnam witnessed a resurgence. Gia Long had a long standing friendly toward Christians, owning by the debt from Pigneau de Béhaine, a French Bishop who helped organize the anti-Tây Sơn force to finally retake Vietnam from the opponent.[9] Emperor Gia Long's friendliness with Christians built up the stronger Christian influence in the country. However, after Gia Long's death, Emperor Minh Mạng returned to traditional persecution of Christians, revoked many of his father's policies.[9] The persecution only stopped when Cochinchina Campaign and French conquest forced Emperor Tự Đức to accept the presence of Christians.

Before the independence of Vietnam there already existed, since 1925, an Apostolic Delegation (a non-diplomatic mission accredited to the Catholic Church in the area) for Indochina, based in Hanoi. After the expulsion of its staff by the North Vietnamese authorities, the headquarters of the Apostolic Delegation was moved to Saigon in 1957. In 1964, responsibility for relations with the Church in Laos was transferred to the Apostolic Delegation in Bangkok and the Saigon-based mission was renamed Apostolic Delegation for Vietnam and Cambodia.

Cambodia and the Holy See established diplomatic relations in 1994 and the name of the Apostolic Delegation was again changed, this time to Apostolic Delegation for Vietnam. Meanwhile, with the end of the Vietnam War, the Apostolic Delegate was forced to leave. Since an apostolic delegation, unlike an embassy, is not a bilateral institution with involvement by the State, the Apostolic Delegation for Vietnam has not been suppressed, but has remained inactive since 1975.[10]

Temporary missions from the Holy See to discuss with the Government matters of common interest are sent every year or two, and there has been at least one visit to the Vatican by a Vietnamese mission.


The Communist Party of Vietnam officially promoted atheism and somehow favored Mahayana Buddhism — the major faith of Vietnamese people, causing Roman Catholics and other Christians to be associated with the anti-communist South Vietnam region. This has strained relations between the Holy See and the Hanoi Government. Leading bishops have been imprisoned for several years, in what some observers have described as a persecution of the Vietnamese Church.

Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng and Pope Benedict XVI met at the Vatican on 25 January 2007 in a "new and important step towards establishing diplomatic ties".[11] The first meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group was convened in Hanoi from 16–17 February 2009.[12] The Pope met with President Nguyễn Minh Triết on 11 December 2009. Vatican officials called the meeting "a significant stage in the progress of bilateral relations with Vietnam."[13] The Vietnam–Holy See Joint Working Group met for a second time in June 2010.[14]

There is also a question of Church property confiscated by the Vietnamese government and that the Church has sought to recover.

In January 2011 the Holy See appointed the first envoy,[15] formally "non-resident representative to Vietnam" with Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli being the first to hold the post in addition to Archbishop Girelli's other roles as Apostolic Nuncio to Singapore and Apostolic Delegate to Malaysia.

Normalization process[edit]

There have been meetings between leaders of Vietnam and the Vatican, including a visit by Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng to the Vatican to meet Pope Benedict XVI on 25 January 2007. Official Vatican delegations have been traveling to Vietnam almost every year since 1990 for meetings with its government authorities and to visit Catholic dioceses. In March 2007, a Vatican delegation visited Vietnam and met with local officials.[16] In October 2014, Pope Francis met with Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng in Rome. The sides continued discussions about the possibility of establishing normal diplomatic relations, but have not provided a specific schedule for the exchange of ambassadors.[17] The Pope would again meet Vietnamese leader Trần Đại Quang and his associates in Vatican in 2016.[18]

Vietnam remains as the only Asian communist country to have an unofficial representative of Vatican in the country and has held official to unofficial meetings with the Vatican's representatives both in Vietnam and Holy See, which it doesn't exist in China, North Korea and Laos, due to long and historical relations between Vietnam and the Catholic Church.[19] This has improved in a more favorable manner, when Holy See announced they will have a permanent representative in Vietnam in 2018.[20][21] Although it has yet to establish an official embassy and full ambassador, it was hailed as a major improvement.

Appointment of Archbishops[edit]

Though the Government of Vietnam remains a veto over the appointment of cardinals by Vatican, the Communist regime of Vietnam, unlike those of other communist Asian states, has voluntarily cooperated with bishops that nominated by the Vatican. This was seen after the historic Vietnam–Holy See deal in 2018, which Vatican remains status of appointment of Archbishops with skeptical support from the Government, proved if they do not interference in the regime's politics.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://misjejezuici.blogspot.com/2012/07/wojciech-mecinski.html
  2. ^ https://saigoneer.com/saigon-people/9498-street-cred-alexandre-de-rhodes-and-the-birth-of-ch%E1%BB%AF-qu%E1%BB%91c-ng%E1%BB%AF
  3. ^ http://vietnam.jannalongacre.com/religion/christainity/
  4. ^ http://www.vjol.info/index.php/RSREV/article/viewFile/9468/8779
  5. ^ https://sites.google.com/site/vietnamesemartyrs/history/vietnamese-catholics
  6. ^ https://nhatbook.com/2017/01/23/the-tay-son-uprising/
  7. ^ https://catholicpilgrimagenetwork.com/the-story-of-our-lady-of-lavang/
  8. ^ https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/letters/1999/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_19990716_madonna-la-vang.html
  9. ^ a b https://books.google.com/books?id=Bl04DgAAQBAJ&pg=PT37&lpg=PT37&dq=tay+son+catholicism&source=bl&ots=5c5ul7JSv5&sig=ACfU3U2_g1sWsLFHfk7Qf6LKl01H2uIfUg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjIsrmwm_LhAhURn-AKHbLMCVIQ6AEwBXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=tay%20son%20catholicism&f=false
  10. ^ Filipazzi, Antonio G. Rappresentanze e Rappresentanti Pontifici dalla seconda metà del XX secolo (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2006 ISBN 88-209-7845-8), p. X, XII, XV, 189)
  11. ^ "Vietnamese leader meets pontiff". BBC News. London. 25 January 2007. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
  12. ^ "Holy See-Vietnam Meeting Goes Well". Vatican City: Vatican Radio. 20 February 2009. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  13. ^ "Relations progress as Vietnamese president meets with Pope". Denver, Colorado, United States: Catholic News Agency. 11 December 2009. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2010.
  14. ^ "Holy See-Vietnam Hold 2nd Diplomatic Meeting". New York City: Zenit News Agency. 21 June 2010. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
  15. ^ Pianigiani, Gaia (13 January 2011). "Vatican: Envoy to Vietnam Appointed". The New York Times. New York City. Archived from the original on 3 October 2014.
  16. ^ "Vatican: Vietnam working on full diplomatic relations with Holy See". Catholic News Service. 2007-03-12. Archived from the original on 2007-03-13. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  17. ^ "Vatican and Vietnam edge closer to restoring diplomatic ties". AFP. 19 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  18. ^ https://vietnamnews.vn/politics-laws/346844/pope-francis-welcomes-vietnamese-leaders-visit-to-vatican.html#WJxfVvVjal0g1Vwd.97
  19. ^ https://vietnamnews.vn/politics-laws/468272/deputy-pm-truong-hoa-binh-meets-vatican-leaders.html#2cHUPVoYVZhmGcRJ.97
  20. ^ https://www.romereports.com/en/2018/12/20/holy-see-to-have-permanent-representative-in-vietnam/
  21. ^ https://international.la-croix.com/news/vatican-vietnam-move-closer-to-full-diplomatic-relations/9128
  22. ^ https://bitterwinter.org/vietnamese-model-for-the-vatican-in-china/

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