January 13, 2011. The Pope has tapped a Vatican representative to Vietnam. The nomination of 58-year-old Italian archbishop Leopoldo Girelli is a pivotal step in the establishment of diplomatic relations, even though Girelli will be a non-resident attache of Vietnam.
Archbishop Girelli will also be nuncio to Singapore and apostolic delegate to Malaysia and Brunei.
Relations with the Vatican and Vietnam fizzled 36 years ago, in 1975, after the communist regime expelled all the papal representatives from the war-torn nation.
The Vietnam government wants to intervene in the naming of bishops of the country and the ordination of priests.
In December 2009, the president of Vietnam visited the Vatican. It was the first visit by a Vietnamese leader and an event that the Vatican said was a step toward “significant progress in bilateral relations”.
Vietnam has the fourth-largest number of Catholics in Asia, with 6 million Catholics. They constitute nearly 7% of the nation's total population.