Vatican Official Remembers Cardinal Van Thuán on 10th Anniversary of His Death

“There is a close nexus between the New Evangelization and the Cross of Christ”

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ROME, SEPT. 17, 2012 ( Here is a translation of a homily given by Bishop Mario Toso, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, last Friday, to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuán

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The 10th anniversary of the death of the beloved Servant of God Cardinal Van Thuán — we still have the vivid memory of his burial a few months ago in this church of Santa Maria della Scala – is being observed with this Eucharist on the day of the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Now very close are the Synod of the month of October, dedicated to the New Evangelization, and the opening of the Year of Faith.

Hence, we cannot fail to realize that this year the memory of Cardinal Van Thuán is characterized by ecclesial and pastoral references that are particularly dense with meaning.

In particular, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross enables us to recall Cardinal Van Thuán as an heroic witness of the love of Jesus Christ, of that total and faithful love that led him to suffer the torture reserved for slaves.

The Cross is the place where Jesus Christ showed the breadth, the length, the height and the depth of his love for the Father and for humanity.

Thanks to such a measureless love, which surpasses all knowledge, He fulfilled the will of God and redeemed humanity, enriching it with the capacity to love proper to God.

During the years of harsh imprisonment, the Servant of God Van Thuán drew strength from the love of the crucified Christ. He immersed himself in it celebrating the Eucharist in its greatest essence, moved by an ardent faith. He wished to represent such a suffering love to himself by making, piece by piece, the pectoral cross that, when he was released, he carried hanging from his neck, showing it to everyone, especially his refugee and emigrant fellow countrymen, as a sign of hope.

In his preaching he often quoted the liturgical prayer: O Crux ave, spes unica: Hail O Cross, our only hope.

The Cross, or better, the supreme love of Jesus Christ manifested on it, is the hope of the world. Only such a love redeems and transfigures persons, brings full prosperity to peoples. Only the total love of Christ for the Father and for humanity, received and lived, can make it possible to be reborn from the moral point of view and to found the life of the city-state on love of the other, rather than on hatred and on fear of one’s fellow men.

While he worked at the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Servant of God Cardinal Van Thuán continued to look at the love of Christ crucified as the outstanding source of the humanizing and liberating renewal of culture, of politics, of the economy, of finance, of the family of peoples, of the mass media.

We all know that the New Evangelization is carried out only thanks to community or to Christian laity that live an intense faith. Such a faith is able to become a new culture and new practice if it is fully received, wholly thought-out, faithfully lived and celebrated with a passionate love of Jesus Christ.

A New Evangelization introduces and supports believers in the new life of love that Jesus Christ shows and carries out in a supreme way on the Cross, so that they become heralds and witnesses.

Hence, there is a close nexus between the New Evangelization and the Cross of Christ. The New Evangelization seeks to have us encounter Jesus Christ, to live with Him, to live his crucified love, a faithful love of God and of man.

Today’s world, especially the European, which shows signs of de-Christianization and an enfeebled faith, is in need of a New Evangelization, of looking at the Cross of Christ to be healed, as the Israelites did who, mortally bitten by “fiery serpents,” we healed by looking at the bronze serpent, placed on Moses’ staff (cf. Numbers 21:4-9).

Drawing from the love of Christ dead on the Cross, it is possible to overcome the evil poison of those “fiery serpents” that, on the plane of the interior and spiritual life are: the desire to be absolute owners of truth, the desire to dominate others, the lack of fraternity, and hatred and that, on the plane of the new ideologies, are: materialistic consumerism, mercantilism, technocracy.

Thanks to the holy gift of love of the crucified Christ that, as Benedict XVI teaches in Caritas in veritate, is love full of truth, Christianity will show the fullness of its brilliance, of its inspirational force of a new ethos and civilization, and will not be held as a simple reserve of good sentiments (cf. Caritas in veritate, n. 4).

Taking part in today’s Eucharist, on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, let us allow ourselves to be drawn into the transcendent dynamism of the love of Christ who in a certain way makes himself a “slave” of God and of humanity, making a total gift of his life, so that no one is lost. Let us look at the example of Cardinal Van Thuan who became an eminent witness of it.

May the Cross on which Jesus stretched his arms, gathering Jews and pagans into one people, help us to be, as the Servant of God Van Thuan, heralds of unity and peace.

O Crux ave, spes unica!

+ Mario Toso

Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

[Translation by ZENIT]
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