Vietnamese bishops have joined the Vatican envoy to Vietnam in extending heartfelt condolences to the government and grieving family members on the president's death. President Tran Dai Quang died of a serious illness at the 108 Military Hospital in Hanoi on Sept. 21, Vietnam News Agency reported on Sept. 23. Quang, who was known as a tough politician and committed communist with little tolerance for dissent, was 61 years old. His passing is a "great loss to the party, the government and the people," government leaders said in a statement. Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh
, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam (CBCV), wrote to acting President Dang Thi Ngoc Thinh on Sept. 23 on behalf of the CBCV to offer deep condolences to the late president's family members. Archbishop Linh said that "the Catholic Church in Vietnam also shares the grievous event with the country." He appealed to "God to console the late president's family, bless government leaders and give divine grace to the nation." Jesuit Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu
, head of the CBCV's office in Ho Chi Minh City, said that Archbishop Marek Zalewski
, who is the Vatican's non-resident representative to Vietnam and is based in Singapore, "extended Pope Francis' sincere sympathy" to the Vietnamese government and people via his letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Father Vu said the pope offered his prayers for those who grieve the passing of the president and invoked the divine blessings of consolation and peace on them. The late president met Pope Francis and Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin during his working visit to the Vatican in 2016. Quang became the communist country's president on April 2, 2016, after leading the Ministry of Public Security, one of Vietnam's most powerful bodies, for five years. He contracted a "rare virus" for which doctors have found no cure, Nguyen Quoc Trieu, head of the National Commission of Health Services for Officials, said to the state-run VnExpress
newspaper. Trieu said the president fell sick in July 2017 and had traveled to Japan six times for treatment. "Experts and doctors from Japan have treated him for around a year. But there's no medicine to cure the disease completely; it could only be slowed down," he said. Quang will lie in state at the National Funeral Home in the capital, where mourners can pay their respects. A two-day state funeral will be held on Sept. 26-27. Government offices and public places will fly the national flag at half-mast and no public entertainment events will be held. Quang will be buried on Sept. 27 in his home commune of Quang Thien in Kim Son district of Ninh Binh province, south of Hanoi.