François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận (April 17, 1928 to September 16, 2002) was a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. He was the nephew of South Vietnam’s first President, Ngô Đình Diệm, and of Archbishop Ngô Đình Thục.

Early life

He was born in the Imperial capital of Huế, Vietnam. In 1941, Nguyễn Văn Thuận joined An Ninh Minor Seminary and was ordained a priest on June 11, 1953. After six years of further studies in Rome, he was appointed in 1959-1967 as a faculty member and rector of the Seminary of Nha Trang.

Styles of
François Nguyễn Văn Thuận
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Vadesi (titular)

He was appointed Bishop of Nha Trang on 13 April 1967 and received episcopal consecration on 4 June 1967 at Huế at the hands of Angelo Palmas, Apostolic Delegate to Viêt Nam (and later, Nuncio to Colombia and to Canada), assisted by Bishops Philippe Nguyen 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. On 30 April, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army, and Nguyễn Văn Thuận, targeted for his faith as well as his family connection to Ngô Đình Diệm, was detained by the Communist Government of Vietnam in a reeducation camp for 13 years, 9 of them in solitary confinement.

While in prison, he smuggled out messages to his people on scraps of paper. These brief reflections, copied by hand and circulated within the Vietnamese community, have been printed in the book The Road of Hope. 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.

In Exile

On 21 November 1988, Nguyễn Văn Thuận was released by the communist government but kept under house arrest in the archbishop's house in Hânoi, impeded to return to his see, Hô-Chi-Minh-Ville (ex-Saigon). He was allowed to go on a visit to Rome in 1991 but not allowed to return. In 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 Hânoi. 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, C. Ss.R known as Marcel Van[1].

On 21 February 2001, Nguyễn Văn Thuận was created a Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria della Scala. Within a week, Viêt Nam's Foreign Ministry eased restrictions and the Cardinal could enter his native country with only routine immigration procedures and was afforded all the privileges normally given to overseas citizens.

Nguyễn Văn Thuận died of cancer in a clinic in Rome, Italy, on 16 September 2002, at the age of 74.

Prior to his death, Nguyễn Văn Thuận had appeared on lists of possible successors to Pope John Paul II.

Beatification Process

On September 16, 2007, the fifth anniversary of the cardinal's death, the Roman Catholic Church began the beatification process for Nguyễn Văn Thuận.[2] Pope Benedict XVI expressed "profound joy" at news of the official opening of the beatification cause.[3] 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 Ho Chi Minh City, "Nguyen Van Thuan is an example of holiness for Vietnamese Catholics and for the entire world."[4]

In his 2007 encyclical Spe Salvi, Benedict 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."


  • Speaking of his mother, Nguyễn Văn Thuận said, "When I was in prison, she was my great comfort. She said to all, 'Pray that my son will be faithful to the Church and remain where God wants him'."
  • “In our country there is a saying: ‘A day in prison is worth a thousand autumns of freedom.' I myself experienced this. While in prison, everyone waits for freedom, every day, every minute. We must live each day, each minute of our life as though it is the last.”
  • Recorded on the Feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7, 1976, in Phu-Khanh 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"[5].

Ten Rules of Life of Nguyễn Văn Thuận

  • I will live the present moment to the fullest.
  • I will discern between God and God’s works.
  • I will hold firmly to one secret: prayer.
  • I will see in the Holy Eucharist my only power.
  • I will have only one wisdom: the science of the Cross.
  • I will remain faithful to my mission in the Church and for the Church as a witness of Jesus Christ.
  • I will seek the peace the world cannot give.
  • I will carry out a revolution by renewal in the Holy Spirit.
  • I will speak one language and wear one uniform: Charity.
  • I will have one very special love: The Blessed Virgin Mary.[6]

See also


  1. Les Amis de Van
  2. "Late Vietnamese cardinal put on road to sainthood". Reuters. September 17, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-17. 
  3. UCANews at
  4. Card Van Thuan, from prison towards the altar, in
  5. Zenit News Agency, Address of Cardinal Van Thuan's Sister
  6. Our Lady of La Salette and Saint Joseph Church

External links

sv:Nguyen Van Thuan vi:Phanxicô Xaviê Nguyễn Văn Thuận zh:阮文順

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