“The government would be happy to welcome Pope Francis”, said Deputy Interior Minister Vu Chien Thang, as reported by Fides, the Pontifical Missionary Works Agency.

The Deputy Interior Minister has assurede that Vietnam and the Holy See respect each other and maintain friendly relations. He is confident that relations between the Vatican and Vietnam will continue to develop, reports the online newspaper “Dang Cong San Vietnam” (“Communist Party of Vietnam”), the party’s official information organ.

According to Thang, former head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, these relations will “create favorable conditions for the integration of the local Church with the universal Church”, while “the seven million Vietnamese Catholics, with their presence and their work, will make a positive contribution to improving relations with to the Vatican”.

In this sense, a visit by the Pope to Vietnam is possible. “The Vietnamese government would be happy to welcome Pope Francis”, said Thang, recalling that the path of mutual rapprochement led to the appointment of Archbishop Marek Zalewski as the first papal representative resident in Vietnam last December.

The Pontifical Representative Zalewski talks about his mission

Archbishop Zalewski was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Singapore and non-resident representative to Vietnam in 2018. “The first feeling I felt upon being appointed by the Pope,” he said, “was the joy of being appointed resident papal representative in Vietnam. For the past five years, I have been traveling from Singapore to Vietnam. Now I have a residence and an office in Hanoi. This also gives me hope for a better future: I am here to work with the Catholic bishops for the good of the Church in Vietnam.”

“I think that my appointment can only improve the already good relations: we began maintaining regular contacts almost 12 years ago. In 2010, a Joint Commission was established between the Holy See and the Vietnamese government. The first papal representative for the country was Msgr. Leopoldo Girelli in 2011, and I am his successor.

Now my title has changed. Our relations will be even stronger, better and more reliable, both for the Church and for the government,” he emphasized. Archbishop Zalewski wanted to thank the Vietnamese government “for its openness and tolerance.” “We have reached a level of good relations that was unthinkable ten years ago,” said Zalewski. This is a great success that we can describe as historic. This was possible because we are committed to being tolerant and understanding one another, and because the Vietnamese faithful are committed to being ‘good citizens and good Catholics’.

This is possible if we follow the Gospel with good will and at the same time respect civil law.” “Relations have improved and I hope they will continue to improve in the future,” he said. “My hope, not only personal but also that of the Holy See, is that one day we can have full diplomatic relations with Vietnam.” The Archbishop said he was “grateful to the Vietnamese bishops for their cooperation and understanding. I have to organize a lot of things, but with the help of God, the bishops and the government everything will be possible.”

Regarding his mission in the country, the papal representative said: “It is very important for the life of the Vietnamese Church. In the last five years I have been to Vietnam 36 times, not counting the pandemic years. I have visited almost all the dioceses and my impression of the Church in Vietnam has always been positive. It is a young, enthusiastic community, faithful to the Gospel, and I hope that Catholics will continue to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, faithful to his commandments, despite the many challenges and temptations”.

Archbishop Zalewski thanked the government, the Episcopal Conference and all Vietnamese Catholics for the warm welcome and addressed a message to the faithful: “Try to be good Catholics, faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Be joyful because, if we are joyful, people will follow us. It is very important that we express our faith in concrete actions, in works of charity, in caring for our neighbors, not just with words. I would like to wish you all a happy and blessed New Year. To your families, to all Catholic communities I say: God Almighty, bless you and bless Vietnam”.