The pope will appoint a representative for Vietnam in a first step toward establishing diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the communist nation.
Vietnam has 6 million Roman Catholics – the second-largest Catholic community in Southeast Asia after the Philippines – but there have been tensions for decades between Catholics and the Hanoi government over church property seized by the Communists and other issues.
Last week, a joint working group on improving ties met at the Vatican and agreed to appoint a nonresident representative to Vietnam, according to a Vatican statement released June 26.
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, called it “a very concrete step toward diplomatic relations.”