Viet Nam

A special situation was the one of Vietnam in the context of catholic clandestine hierarchy. After Hồ Chí Minh proclaimed the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, France restored in the same year its colonial administration in the southern part of the country. In 1954, France lost the war, and Vietnam was divided alongs the 17th degree into a communist north and a western orientated southern part. In 1964/1965 the next war erupted, and the government of the north conquered step by step the south; the southern state surrendered on May 1, 1975, and Vietnam was reunified from Hà Nội as capital.  

The position of the catholic Church became difficult because of the Church’s strong French influence there. When the hierarchy was established on November 24, 1960, beyond the 19 reigning bishops were already 17 autochthon prelates and only two French ones; Paul Léon Seitz, bishop of Kontum in South Vietnam, left his office on October 2, 1975, as last missionary prelate.

In spite of the fact most dioceses also in the north were filled with bishops, the Holy See worried about the situation at the transition era at the war’s end and appointed numerous new bishops. As soon as 1974 the southern Metropolitan provinces of Huê and Sái Gòn got three bishops, who were consecrated by Agnelo Cardinal Rossi on August 11, 1974:

01.07.1974        Phaolô Huỳnh Ðông Các, Bishop of Quy Nhơn

01.07.1974        Nicôla Huỳnh Văn Nghi, Auxiliary Bishop of Sài Gòn

01.07.1974        Ða Minh Nguyễn Văn Lãng, Bishop of Xuân Lộc

At the beginning of 1975 Rome separated the newly erected diocese of Phan Thiết from Nha Trang diocese within the Sài Gòn Metropolitan province and appointed a new bishop for the vacant see of Ðà Lạt:

30.01.1975        Bartôlômêô Nguyễn Sơn Lâm, P. S. S., Bishop of Ðà Lạt

30.01.1975        Phaolô Nguyễn Văn Hòa, Bishop of Phan Thiết

These both consecrations were the last regular ones in South Vietnam for quite a while. During progressing crisis several reigning bishops got the right to choose a coadjutor and to consecrate him immediately to assure a working diocesan government even in the case of impedition of the ordinary due to military or political circumstances.

Appointment  and                                                                                           Consecration            

27.03.1975        Alexis Phạm Văn Lộc, Coadjutor of Kontum (Huê)                     consecrated on 27.03.

15.04.1975        Gioan Baotixita Bùi Tuần, Coadjutor of Long Xuyên (Sài Gòn)     consecrated on 30.04.

28.04.1975        Ðôminicô Maria Lê Hữu Cung, Bishop of Bùi Chu (Hà Nội)         consecrated on 29.06.

07.05.1975        Ða Minh Ðinh Huy Quảng, Auxiliary Bishop of Bắc Ninh (Hà Nội)

06.06.1975        Emmanuel Lê Phong Thuận, Coadjutor of Cần Thơ (Sài Gòn)      consecrated on 06.06.

06.06.1975        Phanxicô Xaviê Nguyễn Quang Sách, Coadjutor Ðà Nẵng (Huê)   consecrated on 06.06.

10.06.1975        Anrê Nguyễn Văn Nam, Coadjutor of Mỹ Tho (Sài Gòn)               consecrated on 10.06.

16.07.1975        Phaolô Maria Nguyễn Minh Nhật, Coadjutor Xuân Lộc (Sài Gòn)   consecrated on 16.07.

06.08.1975        Stêphanô Nguyễn Như Thế, Coadjutor of Huế                             consecrated on 07.09.

15.08.1975        Raphael Nguyễn Văn Diệp, Coadjutor of Vĩnh Long (Sài Gòn)        consecrated on 15.08.

On April 24, 1975, Phaolô Nguyễn Văn Hòa was sent as Bishop to Nha Trang within Huê Metropolitan province, and Phanxicô Xaviê Nguyễn Văn Thuận, up to the Bishop of Nha Trang, became Coadjutor of Sài Gòn. Eight from ten new bishops were destinated for the Southern provinces. The Coadjutor of Huê was forbidden to fulfill his duties for long years, and the Coadjutor of Sài Gòn was kept into custody steadily, while the remaing prelates were able to administer their offices in the limits of those times. In 1994, Phanxicô Xaviê Nguyễn Văn Thuận was retired by St. John Paul II and became President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in 1998. In 2001, he was honoured with the cardinalate before he died the following year after long illness in the rumour of saintity. His beatification is in progress.

In 1976, St. Paul VI raised a bishop out of the northern part of the country, the Archbishop of the capital Hà Nội, Giuse Maria Trịnh Như Khuê, to Vietnam’s first Cardinal. The announcement of this creation still was „in pectore“ regarding to the question whether the new cardinal was allowed to leave Vietnam to Rome, but indeed Mons. Trịnh Như Khuê got his insignia in public. During the same year the last collective appointments took place:

Appointment  and                                                                                                Consecration            

 22.02.1976        Giacôbê Huỳnh Vӑn Của, Coadjutor of Phú Cường (Sài Gòn)        consecrated on 22.02.

30.03.1976        Giuse Phan Văn Hòa, Coadjutor of Quy Nhơn (Huê)                      consecrated on 30.03.

14.04.1976        Giuse Phan Thế Hinh, Coadjutor of Hưng Hoá (Hà Nội)                   consecrated on 14.11.

09.12.1976        Giuse Nguyễn Thiện Khuyến, Coadjutor of Phát Diệm (Hà Nội)       consecrated on 24.04.

While the two appointments for the Southern sees occurred clandestine, borth Northern bishops were nominated in the regular way. In 1982, the Coadjutor of Phú Cường resigned; he died in French exile.

The last residence permission: Giacôbê Huỳnh Vӑn Của, Coadjutor of Phú Cường, in exile in Rocbaron
Giuse Lê Quỳ Thanh, Vietnam’s first clandestine bishop
Ða Minh Ðinh Huy Quảng (left), with his consecrator Phaolô Giuse Phạm Ðình Tụng

Ða Minh Ðinh Huy Quảng

Ða Minh Ðinh Huy Quảng, appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Bắc Ninh in 1975, was the only prelate from the war’s last phase who never was published; he died in 1992. Already on February 13, 1964, Giuse Lê Quỳ Thanh became Vietnam’s first clandestine bishop as coadjutor of Phát Diêm, a very catholic and thus strongly by communist administration controlled diocese in Hà Nôi Metropolitan province. He died in 1974 and was never published.

A special role was fulfilled by Giacôbê Lê Văn Mẫn, who only was consecrated clandestine on April 13, 1984, by Philipphê Nguyễn Kim Ðiền, Archbishop of Huê, to support him as an auxiliary. Lê Văn Mẫn, who served as Vicar General and from 1990 up to 1994 as Administrator of the archdiocese, never was confirmed by the Holy See because the special faculties in fact had been suppressed before 1984 and therefore the consecration was valid, but of doubtful legacy.