Implementing the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development, openness and diversification and multilateralization of international relations, friendship, and being reliable partner of all countries in the international community, Vietnam respects and is ready to promote relations with the Vatican on the principle of respecting independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and actively contributing to peace, cooperation and development in the world.
In the process of national construction and development, the State of Vietnam always respects the people's right to freedom of belief and religion, including the Catholic Church and the relation between the Vietnam Catholic Church and the Holy See. According to the Decree No. 234/SL, dated 14/6/1955, signed by State President which also defining the issues relating the Catholicism, the religious relation between the Vietnam Catholic Church and the Holy See is regarded as an internal affairs of the religion.
Entering the period of innovation, with the policy of expanding foreign relations by the Party and State, the first delegation of the Vatican led by Cardinal President emeritus of the Vatican's Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace Roger Etchegaray paid in July 1989 a visit to Vietnam and met with the Government Committee for Religious Affairs (GCRA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Vietnam Catholic Church.
From November 1990 to 2008, Vietnam and the Holy See has organized 17 exchanges of visiting and working delegations, including two times in Vatican in 1992 and 2005, and 15 times in Vietnam. During this time, The GCRA hosted the Vatican delegations and exchanges with the Vatican officials in charge of forein relations and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples practical issues relating the ordination, transfer, training of dignitaries and pastoral affairs of the Vietnam Catholic Church, and the establishment of bilateral relations.
In 2008, Vietnam and Vatican has established the Vietnam - Vatican Joint Working Group to discuss the establishment of bilateral relations. From 2008 to 2023, the Joint Working Group has organized ten round meetings. At the 10th-round meeting taking place on March 31, 2023 in Vatican, the two sides basically agreed on the content of regulations for the Holy See’s Resident Representative and Resident Representative Office in Vietnam.
In 2011, Vietnam agreed the proposal of the Holy See for sending a Vatican's non-resident special envoy to Vietnam, and later, the Vatican appointed Archbishop Apostolic Nuncio to Singapore Leopoldo Girelli as the Vatican's first non-resident Special Envoy to Vietnam. From 2011 to 2017, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli has organized 109 pastoral visits to all 63 provinces and cities and 26 dioceses,and many parishes, religious orders and seminaries in Vietnam.
In August 2018, the Vatican appointed Archbishop Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe Marek Zalewski as the new Vatican's non-resident Special Envoy to Vietnam replacing Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli. Since 2022, after the Covid-19 epidemic in Vietnam, , Archbishop Marek Zalewski has visited and organized tens pastoral visits in the country.
In addition to working visits of the Joint Working Group, Vietnam and the Holy See have organized meetings of high-ranking officials of Vietnam and the Holy See on the Vietnam - Vatican relations, especialy the meetings of Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng and Pope Benedict XVI in 2007 in Vatican; State President Nguyễn Minh Triết and Pope Benedict XVI on December 11, 2009 in Vatican, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyễn Phú Trọng and Pope Benedict XVI in January 2013, Chairman of National Assembly Nguyễn Sinh Hùng and Pope Francis in March 2014; Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng and Pope Francis in October 18, 2014; State President Trần Đại Quang and Pope Francis in 2016; and Deputy Prime Minister Trương Hòa Bình and Pope Francis in 2018. These visits reflected the goodwill and desire of Vietnam and the Vatican to strengthen dialogue and bilateral relations.
Since 1989, high-ranking delegations of Vatican have visited most Catholic dioceses of the Vietnam Catholic Church, including the visits of Cardinal President emeritus of the Vatican's Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace Roger Etchegaray in 1989; Cardinal Minister of Evangelism Ministry Sepe in 2005; Cardinal Ivan Dias in 2011; Cardinal Minister of Vatican’s Evangelism Ministry Fernando Filoni in 2015; Cardinal Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life João Braz de Aviz João Braz de Aviz in 2018 and 2023.
Chairman of GCRA Vũ Chiến Thắng recieves Cardinal João Braz de Aviz in 2018
During the visit to the Vatican by Vietnamese President Võ Văn Thưởng on July 27, 2023 where he met with both Pope Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State of the Vatican Pietro Parolin, Vietnam and the Vatican formally announced the adoption of the Status of the Resident Papal Representative and the Office of the Resident Papal Representative in Vietnam. This is considered to be a new historic step in their bilateral relationship, as well as an important premise to open up a new phase in which cooperation potentials between Vietnam and the Vatican will be promoted.
State President Võ Văn Thưởng meets Pope Francis on July 27, 2023
At the meeting with Pope Francis, President Võ Văn Thưởng affirmed that the Vietnamese Party and State consistently pursue a policy of respecting and ensuring the freedom of belief and religion, saying the nation has constantly revamp its legal framework to facilitate the practice of religions, including Catholicism.
For his part, Pope Francis stressed that the approval of the agreement was a model of mutual trust, and a foundation to further propel the relations between Vietnam and the Vatican forward in the time to come.
The two sides expressed their belief that the Resident Papal Representative will make more active contributions to the relations between the Vatican and the Catholic community in Vietnam, and well as the relationship between the Vatican and the country.
President Võ Văn Thưởng meets with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Vatican on July 27, 2023