Wednesday, April 16, 2008

François-Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan (April 17, 1928 to September 16, 2002)

François-Xavier Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan(April 17, 1928 to September 16, 2002) received his Cardinal hat from the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II in Rome on 21st February 2001.

Cardinals have been imprisoned. Some have been imprisoned in terrible conditions by Communist authorities.

One of the cardinals who was imprisoned by the Vietnamese Communist authorities after the fall of Saigon was François-Xavier Cardinal Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan

He was detained by the Communist Government of Vietnam in a reeducation camp for 13 years, 9 of them in solitary confinement

Released in 1988, he was allowed to travel overseas in 1991. While abroad, he was barred from returning to Vietnam.

In 1994, Pope John Paul II called him to Rome.

The late pope greatly admired him. Besides promoting him as the first Vietnamese prelate to hold a high Vatican office, the pope had him preach the Lenten retreat to the Roman Curia in the year 2000. On Feb. 21, 2001, Pope John Paul made him a cardinal.

The Cardinal described his experiences:

"To his non-Catholic fellow prisoners, who were curious to know how he could maintain his hope, he answered: "I have left everything to follow Jesus, because I love Jesus' defects."

The then archbishop said: "During his agony on the cross, when the thief asked him to remember him when he arrived in his Kingdom -- had it been me I would have replied: 'I will not forget you, but you must expiate your crimes in purgatory.' However, Jesus replied: 'Today you shall be with me in paradise.' He had forgotten that man's sins. The same happened with Mary Magdalene, and with the prodigal son. Jesus does not have a memory, he forgives the whole world."

"Jesus does not know mathematics," the Vietnamese prelate added. "This is demonstrated in the parable of the good shepherd. He had 100 sheep, one is lost and without hesitating he went to look for it, leaving the other 99 in the sheepfold. For Jesus, one is as valuable as 99, or even more so."

Another topic he emphasised during the 2000 spiritual exercises was the need to love one's enemies.

"One day, one of the prison guards asked me: 'Do you love us?'" Archbishop Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan recalled.

"I answered: 'Yes, I love you.'

"'We have kept you shut in for so many years and you love us? I don't believe it ...'

"I then reminded him: 'I have spent many years with you. You have seen it and know it is true.' ... The guard asked me: 'When you are freed, will you send your faithful to burn our homes and kill our relatives?' 'No, although you might want to kill me, I love you.'

"'Why?' he insisted.

"'Because Jesus has taught me to love everyone, even my enemies. If I don't do this, I am not worthy to bear the name Christian. Jesus said: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'

"'This is very beautiful, but hard to understand,' the guard replied.""

On September 16, 2007, the fifth anniversary of the cardinal's death, the Roman Catholic Church began the beatification process for Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan. Pope Benedict XVI expressed "profound joy" at news of the official opening of the beatification cause

In his second Encyclical, Pope Benedict uoted with approval the works of the late Cardinal:

32. A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me[25]. When I have been plunged into complete solitude ...; if I pray I am never totally alone. The late Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, a prisoner for thirteen years, nine of them spent in solitary confinement, has left us a precious little book: Prayers of Hope. During thirteen years in jail, in a situation of seemingly utter hopelessness, the fact that he could listen and speak to God became for him an increasing power of hope, which enabled him, after his release, to become for people all over the world a witness to hope—to that great hope which does not wane even in the nights of solitude.
34. For prayer to develop this power of purification, it must on the one hand be something very personal, an encounter between my intimate self and God, the living God. On the other hand it must be constantly guided and enlightened by the great prayers of the Church and of the saints, by liturgical prayer, in which the Lord teaches us again and again how to pray properly. Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan, in his book of spiritual exercises, tells us that during his life there were long periods when he was unable to pray and that he would hold fast to the texts of the Church's prayer: the Our Father, the Hail Mary and the prayers of the liturgy[27]. Praying must always involve this intermingling of public and personal prayer. This is how we can speak to God and how God speaks to us. In this way we undergo those purifications by which we become open to God and are prepared for the service of our fellow human beings. We become capable of the great hope, and thus we become ministers of hope for others. Hope in a Christian sense is always hope for others as well. It is an active hope, in which we struggle to prevent things moving towards the “perverse end”. It is an active hope also in the sense that we keep the world open to God. Only in this way does it continue to be a truly human hope.

Spe Salvi - Encyclical Letter on Christian Hope