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New cardinal profile: Archbishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon

January 29, 2015

Sixth on the list of new cardinals announced by Pope Francis on January 4 is Archbishop Pierre (Phero) Nguyen Van Nhon, 76, of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. Three of his four predecessors were cardinals.

Born in 1938 in Da Lat, a city that was a center of Catholic education in what was then South Vietnam, he was educated in local seminaries and ordained to the priesthood in 1967. In addition, he received a bachelor’s degree in French literature.

“My family had been Catholic for generations,” he recalled in a 2009 interview. “In every Catholic family there was at least one religious vocation. In mine, out of six children, two of my sisters entered the convent and I went to the seminary. We grew up in simplicity. We went to Mass almost every day. We took Communion. We said evening prayers, and those before and after meals. The same thing happened in many Vietnamese Catholic families.”

From 1968 to 1972, he served as professor at a local seminary, and for the following three years, he was a seminary rector.

In 1975, the year of the Communist takeover of South Vietnam, Father Nguyen Van Nhon was named vicar general of the Diocese of Da Lat. St. John Paul II named him coadjutor bishop of Da Lat in 1991, and he acceded to the see three years later.

In April 2010, Pope Benedict named Bishop Nguyen Van Nhon the coadjutor archbishop of Hanoi amid disputes between the government and Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, 57, over Church property. The Asia Times opined that the Vatican pushed for his resignation for the sake of diplomacy.

Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet resigned a month later, and Archbishop Nguyen Van Nhon acceded to the see.

In a 2009 interview, Bishop Nguyen Van Nhon indicated he supported efforts for the restitution of Church property.

“We are not trying to seize property to become rich and powerful,” he said at the time. “We ask only the minimum so as to continue working and serving our people. The Church is growing, and needs a minimum of means to fulfill its apostolic mission and help the poor.”

According to a January 2015 report from Radio Free Asia, the cardinal-designate said that the current state of religious freedom in Vietnam “depends on the locality and timing.”

“During certain times, some issues may arise that don’t at others,” he added. “There may be problems in one place though not in others. However, in general, I see positive signs.”

The nation of 91 million is 7% Catholic.

 
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