January 22, 2013. (Romereports.com)
Benedict XVI welcomed Nguyen Phu Trong
, the secretary general for the Vietnamese Communist Party
, at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on Tuesday morning, with some honors usually reserved for heads of state. Ten other ministers
from the Vietnamese government and the Communist Party joined Trong for his visit to the Vatican. He is the fourth Vietnamese leader to meet the Pope since the Holy See and Vietnam re-started talks in 2007.
“Welcome... thank you for your visit.”
During their encounter, the two leaders communicated with each other through interpreters. The Vatican asked for greater cooperation and to solve any pending situations. Benedict XVI also greeted one by one the other ministers and party leaders.
At the conclusion of the papal audience, the two leaders also exchanged gifts. The Communist leader gave the Pope a black glass tray with Vietnamese designs painted on.
“For this occasion I would like to give you a small souvenir from Vietnam. This is wonderful.”
Meanwhile, the Pope gave Trong a sketch of the Vatican Science Academy, which dates to the 15th Century. He also joked and complimented the interpreter for the general secretary, asking if he had studies Italian in Rome.
Following the papal audience, Trong and his delegation also met with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican's secretary of state, as well as foreign minister Dominique Mamberti.
CARD. TARCISIO BERTONE
“We see with admiration the development of the Vietnamese people.”
Since the two countries agreed to restart talk to establish full diplomatic relations, the Pope has appointed a non-resident representative to the Communist nation.
Though the country does not recognize an official religion, the government has touted freedom of worship. However, the Church and other Christian groups have expressed concern over alleged on-going persecution of Catholics within the country, which number about eight million.
According to the 2013 list from Open Doors, Vietnam ranks at 21 for persecution of Christians, describing it as “severe.” The ecumenical group says Catholics and other Christians in the state are often harassed, and their worship increasingly restricted.