Biographical Sketch of Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan (as taken from The Road of Hope)

  • Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was born on April 17, 1928, in Hue, Vietnam. As a boy, Van Thuan participated in the various activities of the Catholic movement, Eucharistic Crusade, and discovered a priestly vocation. He entered the seminary in Hue and was ordained a priest in June 1953.
  • From 1956 to 1959, Van Thuan studied in Rome, receiving his doctorate in canon law from what is now the Pontifical University Urbaniana. Upon returning to Vietnam, he was asked to teach at the seminary and later became its Rector and Vicar General.
  • In 1967, Pope Paul VI named Van Thuan bishop of Nha Trang, a position he held for eight years. During this time, Van Thuan focused his attention on priestly vocations and the theological formation of both clergy and laity. He served as chairman to the Vietnamese Episcopal Conference for social communications and development and collaborated in founding Radio Veritas, Asia’s Catholic broadcast network. In 1971, he joined the Pontifical Council of the Laity, and at the request of Paul VI traveled widely to solicit aid for the reconstruction of Vietnam.
  • On April 23, 1975, Van Thuan was named Titular Archbishop of Vadesi and Coadjutor Archbishop of Saigon in South Vietnam. But only three months later Bishop Van Thuan was taken into custody and held in the parish church of a small village where he was placed in solitary confinement on March 18, 1976.
  • On December 1, 1976, the Archbishop and 1,500 other prisoners were sent to North Vietnam where Van Thuan was held in a number of “re-education camps.” Nine years of his imprisonment were spent in various isolation cells.
  • On November 21, 1988, the Archbishop was formally released from prison, but kept under house arrest in Hanoi for three years, thus preventing him from any pastoral activity.
  • In December 1991, Van Thuan was expelled from Vietnam and went to Rome.
  • On November 24, 1994, Archbishop Van Thuan was named Vice President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. On June 24, 1998, he became its President.
  • In 2001, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was named a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II.
  • On September 16, 2002, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan died in the peace of Christ.

Regarding the twenty-four paragraphs, Cardinal Van Thuan wrote in Five Loaves and Two Fish,

I have shared with you some of my experiences following Jesus so as to find him, to live beside him, and thus to carry his message to everyone.

Perhaps you might ask: How can one practice complete union with Jesus in a life tossed about by so many changes? I have not hidden the answer from you, but for clarity I will rewrite it, my secret!

… They are very practical points. If we live the twenty-four hours of our day radically for Jesus, we will be saints. They are twenty-four stars that light up our road of hope.

I will not explain these thoughts to you; instead I invite you to meditate on them calmly, as if Jesus were speaking sweetly, intimately to your hearts. Do not be afraid to listen to him, to speak with him. Do not hesitate… You will find that grace will shine forth, transforming your lives.”