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Pope meets with Vietnamese Communist leader

Catholic World News - January 22, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI met on January 22 with Nguyen Phu Trong, the secretary-general of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party.

The meeting marked a new stage in negotiations between the Holy See and the Vietnamese leadership. Since 2007, representatives of the Vatican and the Vietnamese government have exchanged visits, as the two sides explored the possibility of re-establishing diplomatic relations. The January 22 meeting was the first ever between a Roman Pontiff and the head of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

A short statement released by the Vatican after the meeting indicated that the talks had been “cordial,” and the Holy See hoped that “some pending situations may be resolved and that the existing fruitful cooperation may be strengthened.”

Church leaders in Vietnam have chafed under restrictions set by the government on religious activities. Although negotiations have recently cleared the way for the appointment of some new bishops, the government remains at odds with Vietnamese Catholics over the ownership of parish properties confiscated by the Communist regime.

Nguyen Phu Trong came to the Vatican accompanied by a delegation that included Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the deputy prime minister of Vietnam. The Communist Party leader was accorded a reception ordinarily reserved for heads of state or heads of government.

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