Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Bishop Emmanuel Le Phong Thuan of Can Tho died yesterday aged 80. The prelate of the largest city on the Mekong Delta had long been ill and rarely attended the meetings of the Vietnamese bishops' conference.
Bishop Le Phong had fought for years to carry out his mandate under the control of the communist regime and according to some the continuous pressure from authorities led to his physical collapse.
Born in 1930 in the province of An Giang, Mgr. The Phong entered the seminary of the diocese of Cu Lao Gieng at the age of 8 years and in 1945 was transferred to Cambodia in the minor seminary in Phnom Penh. There he completed his philosophical and theological studies at the Seminary of Saint Joseph Mayor of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), he was ordained a priest in 1960. Between 1964 and 1970 he moved to Germany where he received his doctorate in canon law. On returning to Vietnam, he taught in the major seminary of the diocese of Cannot Tho, until his appointment as coadjutor bishop in 1975.
Due to the restrictions imposed by the communist government, the diocese remained vacant until 1990. In recent years the bishop witnessed the confiscation of most of the goods of local Church and remained under close surveillance. Authorities denied the prelate access to a telephone and communications with the outside world. On 20 June 1990 he was appointed Ordinary Bishop, after several years of dialogue between the Vatican and the Vietnamese government.