POPE TO NAME ENVOY TO VIETNAM AS STEP TOWARD FULL RELATIONS

Pope Benedict XVI will appoint a representative to the government of Vietnam as a first step toward establishing full diplomatic relations with the communist country, the Vatican announced. After a meeting of Vatican and Vietnamese representatives June 23-24 at the Vatican, a statement said that unlike a nuncio, the Vatican's representative would not be residing in Vietnam for the time being. The meeting of the Vietnam-Holy See Joint Working Group was chaired by Msgr. Ettore Balestrero, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states, and Nguyen Quoc Cuong, Vietnam's vice minister of foreign affairs. The June meeting was the second encounter of the joint working group. The meeting took place about six weeks after 57-year-old Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi resigned his post amid rumors that the Vietnamese government had told the Vatican that the archbishop must go. The archbishop denied he had been pressured to step down after he asked Catholics in 2007 to pray for the government to return the former apostolic nunciature to the church. AsiaNews, a Rome-based Catholic news agency, said the archbishop stepped down because the Vietnamese government made his ouster a condition for launching full diplomatic relations.

VATICAN CITY (CNS)