Vatican honors Venerable Cardinal Văn Thuận with new foundation

Cardinal Nguyen Văn Thuận Venerable Cardinal Nguyen Văn Thuận. | Credit:, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Vatican has united two foundations into a single new foundation named for Venerable Nguyen Văn Thuận, a Vietnamese cardinal known for his spiritual reflections on hope, written during and following 13 years of confinement in a communist prison.

The Văn Thuận Foundation replaces the Good Samaritan and Justice and Peace Foundations, according to a July 25 rescript issued by Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with the permission of Pope Francis.

Venerable Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Văn Thuận was born in Vietnam in 1928. In 1967, he became bishop of Nha Trang. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Saigon in April 1975, just six days before the city fell to the North Vietnamese army.

He was arrested and spent 13 years in a Vietnamese communist reeducation camp. During his imprisonment, which included nine years in solitary confinement, he smuggled out handwritten messages to be circulated among the Catholic community.

Văn Thuận’s messages from prison were printed as the book “The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison” in 2013. The prayers he wrote during that time were also later published as “Prayers of Hope.”

Văn Thuận was not allowed to have any religious items in prison, but he was able to craft a small crucifix after guards smuggled him a piece of wood and some wire.

After he was released in 1988, the bishop spent three years under house arrest before he was permitted to visit Rome in 1991. He was not permitted to return to Vietnam, however, and was effectively exiled for the rest of his life.

He resigned as Saigon’s coadjutor archbishop in 1994 when he was appointed vice president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. He became the council’s president in 1998.

In 2000 Văn Thuận was asked to preach the spiritual exercises for Pope John Paul II and the Roman Curia. He died of cancer in Rome on Sept. 16, 2002, at the age of 74.

Văn Thuận's cause for beatification was opened in 2007 and he was named venerable by Pope Francis in 2017.

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