Nguyễn Văn Thuận

Phanxicô Xaviê Nguyễn Văn Thuận or Francis-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận (pronounced [ŋʷjə̌ˀn van tʰwə̂ˀn] (listen); 17 April 1928 – 16 September 2002), was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. He was a nephew of South Vietnam's first president, Ngô Đình Diệm, and of Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục.[1][2][3]

François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Nguyễn pictured between 2001-02.
ChurchRoman Catholic Church
Appointed24 June 1998
Term ended16 September 2002
PredecessorRoger Marie Élie Etchegaray
SuccessorRenato Raffaele Martino
Other post(s)Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria della Scala (2001–02)
Ordination11 June 1953
by Jean-Baptiste Urrutia
Consecration24 June 1967
by Angelo Palmas
Created cardinal21 February 2001
by Pope John Paul II
Personal details
Born(1928-04-17)17 April 1928
Huê, French Indochina
Died16 September 2002(2002-09-16) (aged 74)
Rome, Italy
BuriedSanta Maria della Scala, Rome, Italy
DenominationRoman Catholic
Previous post(s)
MottoGaudium et spes
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
Title as SaintVenerable

Pope Francis named him as Venerable on 4 May 2017, a significant step on the road towards canonization.[4]

Early life

Thuận was born in Huế in 1928, the son of Nguyễn Văn Ấm and Elizabeth Ngô Đình Thị Hiệp, daughter of Ngô Đình Khả.[5] He joined the seminary at An Ninh as a teenager, and was ordained a priest on 11 June 1953, by Monsignor Jean-Baptiste Urrutia.[5] After six years of further studies in Rome, he was appointed in 1959–1967 as a faculty member and rector of the Seminary of Hoan Thiện, Huế.

Styles of
François Nguyễn Văn Thuận
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal
SeeVadesi (titular)

Episcopal career

He was appointed Bishop of Nha Trang on 13 April 1967 and received episcopal consecration on 4 June 1967 at Huế from Angelo Palmas, Apostolic Delegate to Viêt Nam (and later Nuncio to Colombia and to Canada), assisted by Bishops Philippe Nguyễn Kim Dien, Apostolic Administrator, sede plena, of Huế, and Jean-Baptiste Urrutia, titular archbishop of Carpato. On 24 April 1975, he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon. Six days later, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army, and Thuận, targeted for his faith as well as his family connections to Ngô Đình Diệm, was detained by the communist government of Vietnam in a re-education camp for 13 years, nine in solitary confinement.[6]

In prison, he smuggled out messages to his people on scraps of paper. The brief reflections, copied by hand and circulated within the Vietnamese community, have been printed in the book, The Road of Hope. Through a network of influential Overseas Vietnamese, including dignitaries, like his former classmate Monsignor Trần Văn Hoài, The Road of Hope was distributed worldwide. Another book, Prayers of Hope, contains his prayers written in prison. The bishop fashioned a tiny Bible out of scraps of paper. Sympathetic guards smuggled in a piece of wood and some wire from which he crafted a small crucifix.[7]

In exile

On 21 November 1988, Thuận was released by the communist government but kept under house arrest in the archbishop's house in Hanoi, impeded from returning to his see, Hồ Chí Minh City. He was allowed to visit Rome in 1991 but not to return. The following year, he was given a post at the International Catholic Commission for Migration in Geneva, Switzerland. On 24 November 1994, he was appointed President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and at the same time resigned from his post of Coadjutor Archbishop of Sai Gon. As President of the Pontifical Council, he handled issues such as Third World debt. In 1995, he was appointed Postulator of the Cause of Beatification of Brother Nguyễn Tan Văn, also known as Marcel Van. On 21 February 2001, Thuận was created a Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria della Scala. He died of cancer in a clinic in Rome, Italy, on 16 September 2002, at the age of 74.


On 16 September 2007, the fifth anniversary of the cardinal's death, the Roman Catholic Church began the beatification process for Thuận.[8]

Pope Benedict XVI expressed "profound joy" at news of the official opening of the beatification cause.[9] Roman Catholics in Vietnam also positively received the news on beatification process opening for the cardinal. In the words of a catechist from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hồ Chí Minh City, "Nguyễn Văn Thuận is an example of holiness for Vietnamese Catholics and for the entire world."[10]

In his 2007 encyclical, Spe Salvi, Benedict XVI referred to Thuận's Prayers of Hope, saying:

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.

Dr. Waldery Hilgeman is Postulator of the Cause for Thuận's canonization. [11]


  • François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận. Five Loaves & Two Fish 1969 ISBN 978-0819826763
  • François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận. The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison 2001 ISBN 978-0819864734
  • François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận. Prayers of Hope, Words of Courage 2002 ISBN 978-0819859389
  • François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận. Prières d'espérance 1995 ISBN 978-2866791872
  • François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận. J'ai suivi Jésus: un évêque témoigne 1997 ISBN 978-2712206451


  • Recorded on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, 7 October 1976, in Phú Khánh prison, during his solitary confinement: "I am happy here, in this cell, where white mushrooms are growing on my sleeping mat, because You are here with me, because You want me to live here with You. I have spoken much in my lifetime: now I speak no more. It's Your turn to speak to me, Jesus; I am listening to You".[12]

See also


  1. André Nguyen Van Chau The Miracle of Hope
  2. André Nguyen Van Chau The Road of Hope: A Gospel from Prison(French edition: Une vie d'espérance) 2007
  3. Michael D. O'Brien, Road of Hope: The Spiritual Journey of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan Ignatius Press 2010
  4. "12 beatification causes advance, including Father Solanus Casey, 2 cardinals : News Headlines". Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  5. "Biography of Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan". Cardinal F.X. Thuan. Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan Foundation. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
  6. "Spe Salvi - Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Benedict XVI on Christian Hope". Retrieved 17 March 2013. 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.
  7. "Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan". Obituaries. The Daily Telegraph. 19 September 2002. Archived from the original on 29 January 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  8. "Late Vietnamese cardinal put on road to sainthood". Reuters. 17 September 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2007.
  9. "Pope rejoices at opening of cause for beatification of Vietnamese 'prophet of Christian hope'". UCANews. 18 September 2007. Archived from the original on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  10. "Card Van Thuan, from prison towards the altar". 25 September 2007. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  11. "Pope's Address to Participants of Cause of Sainthood for Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan". 7 July 2013. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  12. "Address by Cardinal Nguyễn Văn Thuận's sister, Elizabeth". Zenit News Agency. 19 June 2008. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011.