On June 13, 2018, His Eminence, the late François-Xavier Cardinal NGUYỄN Văn Thuận of Vietnam was the subject of discussion at an international conference entitled “Hope, Eucharist, Forgiveness and Love: Reflection on ‘Asian’ Evangelical Spirituality by the Venerable Cardinal NGUYỄN Văn Thuận for Today.” The conference was held at the Pontifical Theological Faculty of St. Bonaventure (Seraphicum) in Rome.
The event was promoted by the Franciscan Institute for Asian Theological Studies (FIATS), founded and chaired by the Dean of the Faculty, Friar Đinh Anh Nhuệ NGUYỄN, OFM Conv. Many of the audience members were Vietnamese. The Vietnamese have always recognized their bishop as an example of great faith and courage. The conference took place one year after the Cardinal had been named “venerable”. The conference speakers included the above-mentioned Professor NGUYỄN and Professors Stéphane OPPES, OFM, and François-Marie LÉTHEL (Carmelite).
The spirituality of Cardinal NGUYỄN Văn Thuận (1928-2002) emerged with force and extraordinary coherence during his thirteen years in detention. Nine of those years were spent in isolation.
Friar Stéphane OPPES recalled how the cardinal chose Gaudium et spes as his episcopal motto and stressed how his story “becomes for everyone, a paradigm to interpret the profound meaning of the Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et spes and to see how the arms of Holy Mother Church are open towards people today, especially the poor and all those who suffer.”
Friar NGUYỄN, speaking on the theme “Forgiveness-Love: Introductory Remarks on the Inculturated Reading of the Gospel in the Spiritual Exercises of Cardinal NGUYỄN Văn Thuận”, remarked how the cardinal “emerges as the figure of a thinker who in the various events of his life, including his tragic imprisonment and isolation, desired and knew how to nourish himself with the Word of God contained in the Bible, especially the Gospels, and was able to apply the Word to the concrete situations of his faith journey as a Vietnamese man. ”
Friar François-Marie LÉTHEL analyzed aspects of the Eucharistic spirituality of Venerable NGUYỄN Văn Thuận and how central the Eucharist was to him. He described how “from the very beginning of his imprisonment, he managed to keep some wine in a bottle of stomach pain medicine, along with some small hidden hosts. He could therefore celebrate Mass every day with three drops of wine in the palm of one hand, and a fragment of host in the other.”
A strong message emerged from the conference, a message on the centrality of hope, forgiveness and love, as summarized in another of his invitations to us: “Discover the joy of hope!”.
Elisabetta LO IACONO – Seraphicum Press Office