A delegation of Catholic clerics has been blocked from entering Vietnam to investigate the possible beatification of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
“This is very disappointing news but it proves again how very difficult is to deal with communist authorities as they are so untruthful in their dealings,” Vietnamese-born Bishop Dominic Luong of Orange County said to CNA on March 28.
A delegation from Rome was planning to visit Vietnam from March 23 to April 9 to hear testimonies from people who knew Cardinal Van Thuan, who died in 2002. The group also wanted to speak to two women – a nun and a lay woman – who claim they were miraculously cured through his heavenly intercession.
On March 28 the Vatican Press Office confirmed for CNA that the group’s tourist visas were revoked by the Vietnamese authorities. They stressed, however, that the delegation was not traveling in any official capacity for the Vatican and that the group did not use the Holy See’s diplomatic channels in planning their visit.
While the press office would not confirm the identities of the group’s members, it also denied media speculation that Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, was part of the delegation.
Cardinal Van Thuan was named the Archbishop of Saigon just seven days before the fall of South Vietnam to the communist North in 1975. He was then imprisoned for 13 years, nine of which were spent in solitary confinement. He was released in 1998, only to be placed under house arrest until 1991, when he was forced to leave his homeland.
He spent his exile in Rome where Pope John Paul II appointed him President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1998. He was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals in 2001. He died a year later after a long battle with cancer.
At the opening of Cardinal Van Thuan’s cause for beatification in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI praised “the shining witness of faith which this heroic Pastor bequeathed to us.”
Father Peter Nguyen Huu Giai, a priest in the Vietnamese Diocese of Hue, told UCA News that he and several others had been ready to give evidence to the delegation early next week.
“I have prepared documents in English and French to present the delegation, but it is regretted that I could not meet them,” he said March 26.
Fr. Nguyen said he believed the refusal to grant visas is a result of the Vietnamese government’s sensitivity surrounding any possible beatification.
“I look forward with optimism about the Cardinal’s beatification process because the Holy See has the right to beatify him (regardless of) the government.”
Due to an editing error, story originally described the delegation as coming from the Diocese of Rome. The delegation, in fact, was only comprised of clergy from the Rome area. Corrected March 29, 2012 at 9:01 a.m. MST.