VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2002 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II sent a number of messages, including one to Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân’s mother, highlighting the late prelate’s heroism.
The Vietnamese cardinal, who died of cancer Monday at age 74, had spent 13 years in communist prisons and camps, including nine in solitary confinement, after Pope Paul VI appointed him coadjutor bishop of Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1975.
When he was exiled from his country, John Paul II welcomed him to the Roman Curia and eventually made him president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Upon hearing the news of the cardinal’s death, the Holy Father sent a telegram of sympathy to his mother, Ngo Dinh Thi Hiep, who is currently in Rome.
“The Church recognizes in your son a faithful and courageous witness of the Gospel, who was faithful in his trials out of love for Christ and the Virgin Mary,” John Paul II wrote.
The Pontiff has also expressed his condolences to Vietnamese Catholics, by sending a message to Bishop Paul Nguyên Van Hóa of Nha Trang, president of the country’s episcopal conference.
The telegram recalls “this great priestly and episcopal figure of your country, who with exemplary fidelity and courage, gave witness to his faith in Christ, being closely associated to his mission through his ministry and to his passion through the suffering he endured.”
The Pope also sent a telegram to Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and its members.
“The beloved deceased brother leaves an indelible memory of a life spent in consistent and heroic adhesion to his vocation, as a priest attentive to the needs of the Christian people and a pastor full of zeal for the Gospel, always faithful to the Church, even in the harsh time of persecution,” the papal message states.
At 5:30 p.m. Friday the Pope will preside over the cardinal’s funeral in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass will be concelebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and other cardinals.