(AsiaNews) - He spent 13 years in prison, nine of them in solitary confinement,
without ever going to trial, and "while imprisoned in conditions of
poverty and hardship of freedom, never lost his nerve, never gave in to hatred
towards his captors. As he was being forcibly "re-educated" he used another
method to teach his enemies. His guards became his pupils. The sincerity of his
relationships changed relations within the prison. " His jailers,
secretly, gave him pieces of wood with which he made a cross and a piece of
wire, which became a chain. He wore it around his neck for the rest of life,
even as a cardinal.
The man was
Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuân and next Friday,
July 5, the diocesan phase of his beatification process closes.
Born April 17, 1928, in central Vietnam, to a family that had the first
Vietnamese martyrs of 1698 among its ancestors, he entered the minor seminary
in An Ninh and then the major seminary of Phu Xuan. On June 11, 1953 he was
ordained priest and sent to the parish of St. Francis as a curate. A few months
later he was appointed chaplain of the Pellerin Institute (where he had received
his education), the central hospital and the provincial prison.
Sent to Rome to
continue his studies, he graduated in Canon Law at the Pontifical Urbanianum
University. On returning to Vietnam he was first a professor and then rector of
the Hue seminary, the diocese where he became vicar general in 1964. On April
13, 1967, Paul VI appointed him the first Vietnamese bishop of Nha Trang. He
chose Gaudium et Spes as his motto as he wished to be an apostle of joy and
On 24 April 1975,
Paul VI appointed him coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Saigon. A few months
later, on 15 August 1975 he was arrested and imprisoned. "Where - he wrote
- the Communists made me go down into the hold of a ship, the Hai-Phong,
crammed together with 1500 other prisoners to transport us to the North, I said
to myself: 'This is my cathedral, this is the people that God is entrusting to
me so that I care for them, here is my mission: to ensure the presence of God among
these people, among these miserable, desperate brothers of mine. It is His will
that I'm here. I accept His will. From then on a new peace filled my heart and
never abandoned me again in all those thirteen years. "
He was released on 21 November 1988.
Called to Rome in 1991 by Pope John Paul II, he was
vice president and then president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and
Peace. In those years, the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church was
cardinal in 2000, he died on 16 September 2002 after a long illness.
"Van Thuan -
said Msgr. Mario Toso, secretary of the Justice and Peace, yesterday on the
occasion of the presentation of the closing of the diocesan phase of the
beatification process - experienced firsthand a political ideology that is the
enemy of the person, of his or her own good and freedom. He was imprisoned,
interned and virtually exiled. He was exiled from his religious community and
his country. Nevertheless, even though a foreigner in a strange land, he never
forgot his homeland. The Church increasingly became his family. His bond to his native land and the
Vietnamese community was deeper and more active than ever. While he was at the
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace he cultivated intensive contacts with exiled
compatriots or those forced to flee from their cities. He keenly pursued the ideal
of communion and national unity. Those who choose Christ, wrote Card. Van
Thuan, and want to bring about a true "revolution" in the world,
renewing it with the power of the Spirit, must embrace the cross, feel themselves
to be citizens of the world, and love their country. In Five loaves and two
fishes (Edizioni San Paolo 1997) he wrote: "Help your homeland with
all your soul. Be faithful to it. Guard it with your body and your blood. Build
it with your heart and your mind. Share in the joy of your brethren, and the
sadness of your people. One Vietnam. One people. One soul. One culture. One tradition.
Catholic Vietnamese love your home a thousand times, the Lord teaches you, the
Church demands this of your. May love for your country be one with the blood flowing
in your veins "(pp. 78-79)."
Now, as the
postulator, Waldery Hilgeman explained, " this early stage of the
proceedings is closed, the cause of the Servant of God Card. Van Thuân will begin a new, and very special iter, the so-called
Roman phase (which will take place at the Congregation for the Cause of
Saints.) After the Closing Session of the Diocesan Process, the Cardinal vicar
of Rome, will entrust me with these documents, all sealed, with instructions to
deliver them to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints. Once all procedural documentation
has been delivered and once it has been legally assessed, the life and virtues
of the Servant of God Card. Van Thuân will be officially recorded - on the
basis of documents and testimonies collected by the Rome Diocesan Tribunal - flowing
into the "Positio" . It is a kind of thesis on Sainthood, written by
the postulator with the help of an external consultant and under the guidance
of the rapporteur. When the "Positio" is perfect in all its parts and
has passed the internal evaluations of the Congregation for the Cause of the
Saints, it will be submitted to the members (bishops and cardinals) of the
Congregation itself, who will be asked to express their opinion on the heroic
degree of the virtues practiced by Card. Van Thuân.
Only at this point, will the Holy Father attribute the title of
"Venerable" to the Servant of God Cardinal Van Thuân. "
The next phase,
which leads to beatification, requires the recognition of a miracle attributed
to him. "As of today - reported the postulator - there are several reports
of graces and signs attributed to the intercession of the Servant of God Card.
Van Thuân. Moreover, there are some cases of
alleged miracles through the intercession of Van Thuân.
After receiving the help of special experts (doctors) and following the conclusion
of the diocesan process, it will be assessed whether to undertake the canonical
procedure to begin the so-called process of "super miro". In any case, we are obliged to
report a certain fact: the fame of holiness of the Servant of God Van Thuân grows
day by day."