A Vatican delegation led by Monsignor Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Under-Secretary of State for Relations with States, paid a working visit to Vietnam from Mar. 5 to Mar. 11.
The Vatican representatives' annual working visit was made following the approval of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
During the visit, the Vatican dignitaries held working sessions with a Vietnamese delegation headed by Nguyen The Doanh, Vice Head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs. The Vietnamese delegation was accompanied by officials from the Foreign Ministry.
At the working sessions, the Vietnamese side introduced to the Vatican representatives the country's renewal achievements in the fields of economy, culture, social affairs and diplomacy over the past years, especially 2006.
They also informed the Vatican guests of the Vietnamese State's policy that respects and ensures the freedom of beliefs and religious practices for citizens.
They highlighted the country's immense gains made from the implementation of the policy regarding unity and further policies designed for religion in Vietnamese society in general and for Catholicism in particular.
The Vatican officials spoke highly of the achievements that Vietnam has obtained during the course of development and renewal process.
They congratulated the country for its admission to the World Trade Organization and welcomed the positive outcomes Vietnam has achieved in all domains of society, including religious affairs.
The Vietnamese and Vatican officials discussed a number of issues concerning the Vietnam Catholic Church and other matters of mutual concern.
They agreed that the meeting between Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Pope Benedict XVI and other Vatican senior officials on January 25, 2007 was an important event in the relations between Vietnam and the Vatican.
The Vietnamese side welcomed all initiatives proposed by the two sides that aimed at boosting the relationship between Vietnam and the Vatican for the sake of peace, stability, and development.
The Vietnamese side also suggested that the diplomatic agencies of both sides meet to discuss the bilateral ties.
In a follow-up step, a joint expert team, including representatives of both sides would be established to exchange, study and unify proposals regarding fundamental principals of this relation, the Vietnamese side said.
The Vietnamese side underlined that the team will also work on measures and specific steps to make the Vietnam-Vatican relations develop in a more appropriate and positive manner in the future to be mutually beneficial to the best extent possible.
The Vatican officials positively acknowledged Vietnam's proposals.
These working sessions took place in an atmosphere of openness, constructiveness and mutual respect.
During their stay in Vietnam, the Vatican representatives met with representatives of the Vietnam Episcopal Council of the Vietnam Catholic Church.
They paid a courtesy visit to the Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee for External Relations and met with officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Party Central Committee's Commission for External Relations.
The Vatican dignitaries were received by Vu Mao, Chairman of the National Assembly's Committee for External Relations, Le Cong Phung, Standing Deputy Foreign Minister and Pham Xuan Son, Deputy Chairman of the Party Central Committee's Commission for External Relations.
They also called at the People's Committee of central coastal Binh Dinh province, the office of the Bishop of Quy Nhon Diocese and attended Mass held at the main Church and the church of Go Thi parish in Binh Dinh province.
The Vatican representatives also visited the People's Committees of the Central Highlands provinces of Kon Tum and Gia Lai, and the office of the Bishop of Kon Tum Diocese. They also attended Mass at the Kon Tum Church and the church of Ploichuet parish in Gia Lai province.
The Vatican dignitaries made a tour of the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay and attended Mass organized at the Hon Gai parish's church in Quang Ninh province.
At these localities, the Vatican officials were welcomed solemnly by provincial leaders, officials of relevant agencies, bishops, priests, clergymen and followers.
Talking with the Vietnam News Agency on Sunday, Vatican Under-Secretary of State for Relations with States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, said he was impressed with religious activities in Vietnam.
"We witnessed great faith everywhere. We witnessed young parishioners in livable parishes desiring to contribute to the nation's material and spiritual development," the Vatican dignitary said, adding he was also impressed with the ceremonies he attended.
"All ceremonies that we attended were crowded with followers and other people. Everyone sang hymns and prayed to show their belief in God," the Vatican official said.