VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 16, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, who suffered long years of communist imprisonment in Vietnam, died of cancer today at a clinic after a long illness. He was 74.
“A saint has died,” Bishop Gianpaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, told ZENIT. The cardinal was president of that pontifical council.
In 1975, Pope Paul VI named him coadjutor archbishop of Saigon just days before the South Vietnamese capital fell to communists from the North.
Targeted for his faith as well as his family connections — his uncle was Ngo Dinh Diem, the slain South Vietnamese president — he spent 13 years in a communist “re-education” camp — nine of them in solitary confinement.
He still managed to celebrate Mass, using tiny hosts and the palm of his hand as a chalice.
In 1991, Archbishop Nguyên Van Thuân was forced into exile. John Paul II welcomed him in Rome, where he gave him duties in the Roman Curia and eventually made him a cardinal in February 2001.
A year earlier, the then archbishop directed the spiritual exercises attended by the Pope and the Curia. His reflections led to the book “Testimony of Hope” (Pauline Books & Media).
He underwent operations twice for cancer. Funeral arrangements were pending.