FUNERAL MASS FOR CARDINAL FRANÇOIS-XAVIER NGUYÊN VAN THUÂN
OF JOHN PAUL II
1. "Their hope is full of immortality" (Wis 3,4).
These consoling words from the Book of Wisdom invite us, in the light of hope, to offer our prayers of suffrage for the elect soul of the late Cardinal François-Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, who lived his whole life under the banner of hope.
Certainly, his death saddens all who knew and loved him: his relatives, especially his mother, to whom I renew my expression of affectionate closeness. I think of the beloved Church in Vietnam, who generated him to the faith; and I also think of all the Vietnamese people, whom the venerable Cardinal expressly remembered in his spiritual testament, saying that he had always loved them. The Holy See mourns Cardinal Van Thuân; he spent his last years in its service, as Vice President and then President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Even at this moment, with great affection he seems to address to everyone, the invitation to hope. When I asked him to give the meditations for the Spiritual Exercises of the Roman Curia in the year 2000, he chose as his theme: "Testimony of Hope". Now that the Lord has tested him, as "gold in the crucible", and has accepted him "as a sacrificial burnt offering", we can truly say that "his hope was full of immortality" (cf. Wis 3,4.5). It was full of Christ, the life and resurrection of all who trust in him.
He added in the light of his personal experience, we are called to proclaim the "Gospel of hope" to everyone; and, he specified, only with the radicalness of our sacrifice can we bring this vocation to its full realization, even in the midst of the harshest trials. "To treasure each suffering", he said, "as one of the countless faces of Jesus crucified, and to unite our suffering to his, means to enter into his own dynamic of suffering-love. It means to participate in his light, his strength, his peace, it means to rediscover within us a new and abundant present of God" (Testimony of Hope, Rome 2001, pp. 93-94).
4. In offering our last farewell to this heroic herald of Christ's Gospel, let us thank the Lord for giving us, in him, a shining example of Christian loyalty to the point of martyrdom. He said of himself with striking simplicity: "In the abyss of my sufferings ... I never shut anyone out of my heart" (ibid., p. 94).
His secret was indomitable trust in God, nourished by prayer and suffering, accepted with love. In prison he celebrated the Eucharist every day with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of his hand. This was his altar, his cathedral. The Body of Christ was his "medicine". He recounted with great feeling: Each time I celebrated Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice. Each day in reciting the words of consacration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, an eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine" (ibid., p. 131).
Only with the sacrifice of himself does the Christian contribute to the salvation of the world. It was so for our venerable Brother Cardinal. He leaves us, but his example remains. Faith assures us that he is not dead but has entered into the eternal day which knows no sunset.
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