Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, President of the Vietnam Bishops' Conference, paid tribute to Cardinal Roger Marie Elie Etchegaray, who died on 4 September in Cambo-les-Bains, for his work in building bridges between Vietnam and the Catholic world. Cardinal Etchegaray, who was former president of the pontifical council Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, died in the diocese of Bayonne at 96 years. His death is a great loss not only for his family and the French Church, but for all the college of cardinals and the universal Church, said Bishop Linh.

"Cardinal Etchegaray is a great benefactor in the history of the Church in Vietnam," said Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, president of the Vietnam Bishops' Conference, in a special message sent to Vietnamese Catholics on September 5, to honor the late cardinal. The Archbishop of Hue recalled that the French Cardinal was the first high official of the Holy See to visit the Southeast Asian country, after his reunification under the communist regime in 1975, with a diplomatic visit of two weeks in 1989. In 1975, Bishop Henri Lemaître, the Apostolic Delegate, was expelled from South Vietnam by the Communist Government, which cut off all ties with the Vatican, and banned local bishops from keeping in touch with foreign churches. . Bishop Linh explained that the deceased cardinal had managed to strengthen the ties between the two parties."His historic visit was a success. The Vietnamese authorities and all the people of God in Vietnam loved it. His mission opened a historic bridge between Vietnam and the Catholic world, " said the 69-year-old archbishop.

After his visit, the government began to loosen its control over religions, and the local clergy were allowed to study abroad and establish links with foreign churches. In 1990, Cardinal Etchegaray returned to Vietnam to attend the funeral of Cardinal Joseph Trinh Van Can, Archbishop of Hanoi. Bishop Linh announced that he would send a letter of condolence to the French Church and the relatives of the deceased cardinal. He asked the Vietnamese faithful to pray for Bishop Etchegaray, while calling for his intercession for Vietnam and the Church. On September 5, Pope Francis, quoted by Vatican News, stated that Cardinal Etchegaray was "a zealous pastor and beloved of the people he had been called to serve."The pope also pointed out that he was an advisor listened to and appreciated, especially in difficult situations for the life of the Church in different parts of the world. He described the deceased cardinal as a man of peace and dialogue. The Holy Father also recounted the emotional memory of a striking figure of the French Church, with deep faith and a "look towards the ends of the earth, always on the alert when it came to announcing the 'Gospel to the men of today'. The funeral of Cardinal Etchegaray will be celebrated on September 9 in the Sainte-Marie cathedral of Bayonne.

(Source: Églises d'Asie - le 07/09/2019)