Overshadowed by current secret talks — and a possible breakthrough agreement — between the Vatican and China after 65 years of estrangement, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang’s trip to the Vatican last Wednesday (Nov. 23) did not attract a good deal of international attention.
Mr. Quang’s Vatican visit — during which he was privately received by Pope Francis and held talks with the Holy See’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Secretary for Relations with the States Archbishop Paul Gallagher — was the sixth by a Vietnamese leader since 2007.
All of this shows, while Beijing has just secretly entered talks with the Vatican this year, its communist comrades in Hanoi have long established high-level dialogue with the latter.
Vietnam’s first communist leader to meet and hold talks with the head of the Catholic Church was Nguyen Tan Dung. In 2007, Mr. Dung, then Prime Minister, was received by now retired Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
Another landmark meeting came two years later when Pope Benedict received Vietnam’s then President Nguyen Minh Triet.
In 2013, the German Pope accorded Nguyen Phu Trong a reception generally reserved for heads of state/government. The audience was the first ever between a Roman Pontiff and the head of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Mr. Trong came to the Vatican accompanied by a high-level delegation, which included Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Vietnam’s then deputy Prime Minister and current Prime Minister.