My first opportunity to come to know Card. Van Thuan more deeply was in the mid ‘90’s when he spent the Easter Triduum in our small community of theology students. It was a time filled with joy. We stayed for a long time talking around the table, with simplicity, in an atmosphere of brotherly love. He shared with us amazing experiences of Gospel life, leaving all of us with a deep impression of having met a confessor of the faith. At the end of his stay one of our students, a Brazilian seminarian, drove him back to Rome. When they reached the house, Archbishop Van Thuan invited the seminarian in and prepared for him a delicious Vietnamese meal. For me this was like a clear sign of how he meant to live his episcopacy: with exquisite love in the service of all.
They changed his Polish guards every two weeks but eventually gave up as he steadily converted all those sent to guard him and his captors came to fear if he carried on he would convert them all.
One of the 44 new cardinals appointed by Pope John Paul II in February, Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was in Sydney last week on a private visit to see his family. His mother, aged 98, and his two sisters live here. One of them, Anne, who came to Australia in 1961, spent many years campaigning for the release of her brother after he was jailed by the Communist Government in 1975. He was to spend the next 13 years in prison – nine of them in solitary confinement.