The 15-minute meeting follows a steady improvement in relations between the two states

As the Vatican and Vietnam continue discussions aimed at establishing full diplomatic relations, Pope Francis welcomed President Tran Dai Quang to the Vatican yesterday.

The Pope and president spent 15 minutes speaking privately before the president introduced his entourage and exchanged gifts with the Pope.

The president gave Pope Francis a small bronze drum and the Pope gave the president a medallion.

During the meeting, the Vatican said, the two spoke of “the good relations existing between the Holy See and Vietnam, [which are] supported by a common spirit of dialogue and a constant search for the most appropriate instruments so they can make further progress.”

The Vatican also said the Pope and president highlighted “the collaboration between the Church and state in various spheres of society.”

One month earlier, the Vatican hosted a meeting of the official Vietnam-Holy See joint working group, which is trying to pave the way for full relations between the Vatican and the communist government.

Vietnam agreed to let the Vatican name a non-resident papal representative – Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli – to the country in 2011, which was seen as a major step in the ongoing process to normalise relations.

The naming of Archbishop Girelli came after now-retired Pope Benedict XVI met then-President Nguyen Minh Triet in 2009 and, two years earlier, with then-Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The new relationship followed decades of sometimes tense relations and protracted negotiations over the nomination of bishops.

Talks and relations between the Vatican and Vietnam were strengthened further when Pope Benedict met the head of Vietnam’s communist party, Nguyen Phu Trong, and top party and government officials in January 2013; it was the first time a pope had met with the general secretary of the nation’s Communist Party.