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President invites Pope Francis to visit Vietnam

The communist leader met with Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Hue on Dec. 14.
President Vo Van Thuong (left) offers a gift to Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh at the Archbishop’s House in Hue on Dec. 14.

President Vo Van Thuong (left) offers a gift to Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh at the Archbishop’s House in Hue on Dec. 14. (Photo: btgcp.gov.vn)

Published: December 15, 2023 11:48 AM GMT
Updated: December 15, 2023 12:18 PM GMT

President Vo Van Thuong has invited Pope Francis to visit Vietnam, the government announced as the political leader met and exchanged Christmas greetings with Church leaders in the communist nation.

President Thuong had signed a letter inviting "Pope Francis to visit and see the social-economic developments and religious life in the country," the government committee for religious affairs reported.

The committee said the president told about the letter to officials of Hue archdiocese officials during a meeting on Dec. 14. 

Thuong met with Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh of Hue, Coadjutor Archbishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan and retired Archbishop Francis Xavier Le Van Hong at the Archbishop’s House in central Vietnam.

He was accompanied by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vu Chien Thang and Deputy Head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs Nguyen Tien Trong

Thuong, 53, said he shared the country's 7 million Catholics' desire to welcome the pope.

The president said he was impressed by his meeting with Pope Francis and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin during his visit to the Vatican in July.

The pope showed special favor for the people in Vietnam, the president recalled.

Thuong and Cardinal Parolin signed a landmark agreement that would allow a papal representative to reside in Vietnam and open an office for the first time since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

Thuong, who succeeded President Nguyen Xuan Phuc in March, said his government respects the people's freedom of belief and religion.

Vietnam, a socialist republic, follows a one-party system led by the Communist Party. It espouses communism along with the ideologies of its founder Ho Chi Minh.

Full diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the Vatican are yet to be established, but since 2011 a non-resident papal representative, based in Singapore, has been paying regular pastoral visits to Vietnam.

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