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Vatican to name first representative to Vietnam

world Updated: Jun 26, 2010 21:55 IST

Pope Benedict XVI is to name a representative to Vietnam for the first time in the history of troubled relations between the Vatican and Hanoi, a statement said Saturday.

It followed a two-day meeting between officials from the two sides which marked a further easing of ties but still left several points at issue unresolved.

"In order to strengthen the relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, as well as between the Holy See and the local Church, it has been decided as a first step that the pope will appoint a non-resident representative of the Holy See to Vietnam," the statement said.

The meeting at the Vatican on June 23 and 24 was only the second of a joint working group to improve ties. The first took place in Hanoi in February 2009.

"With regard to bilateral relations, the two delegations voiced appreciation of the positive developments which followed the first meeting of the joint working group, especially the encounter in December 2009 between Pope Benedict XVI and the president of Vietnam Nguyen Minh Triet," Saturday's statement added.

The two sides decided to hold a third round of talks, in Vietnam, at a date to be fixed, it said.

Although the two have no diplomatic ties, they have moved closer since Vietnam's prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung went to the Vatican during a visit to Rome in 2007.

In May, the Vatican accepted the resignation of Hanoi's ailing archbishop, Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, known as a fierce opponent of Vietnam's communist regime, after he left for the United States for medical treatment.

Kiet in particular spearheaded protests calling for the return of Church property seized by the authorities more than 50 years ago, in particular the former Vatican embassy in Hanoi.