Redemptorist Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung talks with migrant workers in Ho Chi Minh City. The activist priest died March 2. He was 76. (Photo courtesy of Father Joseph Le Quang Uy)
Vietnamese priest recalled as defender of human rights
Father Phung helped sustain faith, church life following the fall of Saigon
Vietnamese Catholics and activists are mourning a senior Redemptorist priest they said raisied hopes among the poor and oppressed, and worked for justice and peace.
Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, head of the Redemptorist monastery in Hanoi, died March 2. He was 76.
“Father Phung spent all his life bringing values of the Good News into social life and rousing glimmers of hope among the poor and victims of social injustice,” Father Jopseph Le Quang Uy told ucanews.com.
Father Uy said the late priest, who then was in his 30s, secretly held courses in the Bible, liturgy, sacraments, catechism and faith and sciences to strengthen the faith of young people after northern communists took control of U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1975 and church activities were banned.
Father Uy said Father Phung helped found or influenced others to form numerous social programs to assist the needy.
Many groups of people were formed to do something useful for domestic migrant workers, protection of life, HIV/AIDS patients, he said.
Father Phung used Redemptorist communication networks to publish reports on violations of religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam.
In 2008 he called on Catholics in Hanoi to pray for the government to return Redemptorist property that authorities confiscated and sold off. Although he was often threatened by government officials, Father Phung would visit and assist people who were detained, persecuted and imprisoned.
Cardinal Peter Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi presided at Father Phung’s March 5 funeral concelebrated by hundreds of priests and attended by thousands of Catholics.
“Father Phung always accompanied us on the road to struggle for real democracy in Vietnam he wished. I really admire his enthusiasm,” an activist said.