Two years ago on the same day, the prelate’s process of beatification began. Benedict XVI himself expressed his “profound joy” for the news, which also touched deeply Vietnam’s Church and Bishops’ Conference.
Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was born on 17 April 1928 in Phu Cam Parish. He entered the An Ninh Minor Seminary in his early teens, followed by studies in philosophy and theology at Phu Xuan Major Seminary. He was ordained priest on 11 June 1953 by Bishop Urrutia.
Between 1964 and 1967, Cardinal Francis Xavier served as vicar general in Hue Archdiocese. On 13 April 1967, Pope Paul VI appointed him bishop of Nha Trang Diocese.
In that capacity, he spared no effort in the development of the diocese. He focused on training grassroots workers, increasing the number of major seminarians from 42 to 147, and minor seminarians from 200 to 500 in four seminaries. He organised youth and lay groups, set up schools and promoted parish councils.
He also took on a number of tasks for the Bishops’ Conference like that of chairman of the Justice and Peace Committee and the Social Communication Committee.
He was one of the founding members of the ‘Radio Veritas’ Asia.
In 1971, he was appointed advisor to the Pontifical Council of the Laity, a post he held until 1975.
It was in this period that he had the opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II, then Archbishop of Cracow, and learnt from him about his pastoral experiences during the most difficult period in Poland under the communist regime.
Vietnam’s Communist regime put him in prison in 1975 and released him in 1988.
He was forced to leave his homeland in 1991. John Paul II welcomed him in the Roman Curia. In 1998, he was appointed chairman of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.