Vietnam, Vatican Agree to Talks

<i> Religion News Service</i>

In a surprise move, the Vatican and the government of Vietnam have agreed to discuss the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations, the Vatican said Thursday.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls confirmed a report by Radio Singapore that the spokesman of the Vietnamese foreign minister, Phan Thuy Thanh, had announced that the Vatican and the Vietnamese government will broach the question of diplomatic relations at a meeting in Hanoi this month.

Diplomatic relations between Hanoi and the Holy See remain one of the obstacles to a papal trip to Vietnam.

The move came as a surprise because Hanoi does not recognize the authority of the Vatican over the Vietnamese Catholic Church. Although Catholics are now freer than in the past to practice their faith, authorities still keep their activities under surveillance and there have been sporadic reports of harassment of Catholics.