Led by Undersecretary of State Pietro Parolin, a delegation from the Vatican arrived in Hanoi on Monday, starting a weeklong official visit to Vietnam at the invitation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
During the full week stay in Hanoi, Parolin will hold talks with high-ranking Vietnamese officials in order to reach a roadmap for normalizing relations between the two states and to exchange views on issues concerning the Vietnamese Catholic Church.
According to local media, the delegation will also meet with the Vietnam Bishops Conference, visit some other Vietnamese agencies and visit some dioceses in the central provinces.
The visit comes after a visit to the Vatican by the Vietnamese prime minister earlier this year; hence, it has been hailed by Vietnamese newspapers as a sign of warming diplomatic relations between Hanoi and the Vatican.
The VTC News Web site said today, "The week long visit by Undersecretary of State Pietro Parolin, is the next important span in the 'diplomatic bridge' between Vietnam and Vatican that has been re-building after the visit by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Vatican this January."
Relations between Vietnam and the Church had been tense for many years, especially after the Vietnam War, when the Vietnamese Communist Party took control of the whole country.
However, over the last few years, the two sides have made great effort toward normalizing bilateral relations, especially after the prime minister's visit to the Vatican. After the visit, the Vatican released a statement, calling it "a new and important step."
"Those relations have, over the last few years, made concrete progress, opening new doors of religious freedom for the Catholic Church in Vietnam," the statement added.
Vietnam currently has the second largest Catholic population in Asia, just after the Philippines, with more than six million people professing the Catholic faith.
The article originally appeared on Ohmynews