Updated: April 26, 2021 11:00 AM GMT
Father John Tran Cong Nghi leads a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land in Israel in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Vietcatholic.net)
Church leaders have joined others in praising a senior Vietnamese priest in the US who spent most of his life providing church news for people in Vietnam and serving Vietnamese refugees in the US.
Father John Tran Cong Nghi died on April 22 at his home in California after battling a heart condition and complications from a car accident since late February, according to an announcement issued by the US-based VietCatholic Network he founded and served as its director. He was 76 years old.
“I am favorably impressed by Father Nghi, who dedicated himself to serving the Church in Vietnam with communication in the difficult time when local people suffered a lack of church news,” Emeritus Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi said.
Archbishop Kiet, who met Father Nghi many times during his visits to Rome and the US, said the late priest, who was an expert in communication technology, established the VietCatholic Network including TV in 1996.
It immediately became a major media outlet bringing church news from around the world and even from Vietnam to local Catholics. The Church in Vietnam, which is banned from running news channels, had not hosted its own websites.
He said that although the outlet in Vietnamese and English is not run by Vietnam’s bishops, it has considerably influenced local Catholics’ faith life and thoughts.
The priest laid solid foundations for the Church’s media development
Archbishop Kiet said Father Nghi took an active part in communication services and gathered a strong network of freelancers in North America, Europe, Australia and Vietnam to volunteer to work for the outlet.
VietCatholic Network ranks 11th among the top 100 Catholic YouTube Channels in both Vietnamese and English.
Bishop Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri of Lang Son Cao Bang said Father Nghi’s death is a sad loss to the local Church. The priest laid solid foundations for the Church’s media development and for younger generations to serve the church in communication.
Bishop Tri called on the news organization’s staff and volunteers to follow the priest’s examples in bringing good news to all people and linking them up in solidarity and love.
Father Stephanus Bui Thuong Luu from France said Father Nghi loved and tried his best to do useful things for the Church in Vietnam. He contacted church people in Vietnam to get news about major events involving religious freedom and asking the government to return former church properties in the late 2000s.
Father Luu said the late priest was banned from entering his native country to report the pastoral visit by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, then prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in 2015 after he arrived at Noi Bai International Airport.
Many people around the world are mourning and praying for Father Nghi, whose funeral is to be held on April 30. Archbishop José Horacio Gómez of Los Angeles will preside at his funeral.
Father Nghi moved to the south during the exodus in 1954
Born in 1945 in the northern diocese of Phat Diem, Father Nghi moved to the south during the exodus in 1954 and studied philosophy and theology at seminaries in Saigon before furthering his studies at the Rome-based Pontifical Urban University, where he was ordained a priest in 1971.
He also studied social science at Fordham University in New York and earned his Ph.D. degree in theology from Pontifical Urban and Gregory Universities in 1978.
He served as a chaplain for Vietnamese refugees in the US after the fall of South Vietnam to communism in 1975. He also served as director of the Vietnamese Pastoral Center, New Orleans Archdiocese, Louisiana; executive director of the Indochinese Center, Washington DC; director of the Southeast Asian Pastoral Center, Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon; vice president of the Federation of Vietnamese Catholics in the US; and director of research on Vietnamese pastoral needs in the United States Project in Orange County, southern California.
He had also been assigned associated pastor of five parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.