VATICAN CITY -- In a first step toward establishing diplomatic relations, Pope Benedict XVI has named a 57-year-old Vatican diplomat to be a "non-resident pontifical representative" for Vietnam.
Italian Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, currently Vatican nuncio to Indonesia, was reassigned Jan. 13 to serve as the pope's representative to Vietnam and simultaneously as nuncio in Singapore and apostolic delegate in Malaysia and Brunei (two countries that do not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican).
Girelli, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps since 1987, previously served at nunciatures in Cameroon, in New Zealand and in the United States, as well as in the Vatican Secretariat of State. He was ordained a bishop in 2006 when he was named nuncio to Indonesia.
A joint working group formed by the Vatican and Vietnam's communist government announced in June that the two sides were agreed that a papal representative would be named. A statement from the working group said that unlike a nuncio, the representative would not be residing in Vietnam for the time being.