51. Jahrgang Nr. 3 / Mai 2021
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1. The Autobiography of Mgr. Pierre Martin Ng-dinh-Thuc - Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo
2. The Autobiography of Mgr. Ng-dinh-Thuc - Part 2
3. The Autobiography of Mgr. Ng-dinh-Thuc - Part 3
4. The Autobiography of Mgr. Ng-dinh-Thuc - Part 4
The Autobiography of Mgr. Ng-dinh-Thuc - Part 3
 
***
The Bo-dai Affair

    The Emperor Bo-dai became increasingly unpopular. I do not know why Mgr. Drapier remembered, summoned or asked me to handle this matter with the lecher Bo-dai.  Saint Thomas Aquinas, the fame of the Dominican order, taught that the monarchy is the ideal form of worldly government and as a Dominican (Drapier) thought that it was his duty to help Bo-dai.  He could not do it publicly since he was a religious and not a political representative.   Therefore he had thought of me because of my influence in the Vietnamese environment (political), particularly with the Catholics.

    I answered him openly: "Monsignor, my task as a citizen is to pay taxes and to obey the empire's laws. If the monarchy is better than every other form of the government, it must be established which type of the monarchy is meant:  The absolute monarchy? The constitutional monarchy?  A monarchy sponsored by a foreign country? What type of monarchy did St. Thomas Aquinas speak about? As a Bishop, I cannot get involved with any politics no matter what my preferences are.  According to the Apostles' example we are obliged by the popes not to get involved in politics."

    Mgr. Drapier was dissatisfied with me again this time but could find no means to counter my arguments. I turned into "a strange fellow" for him. Mgr. Drapier clearly showed this when asked by the Bishops Mgr. L-hn-Tu and Pham-ngoc-Chi if they should recruit troops to fight against the Communists. He answered:  "Do whatever you want, but never listen to Mgr. Ng-dinh-Thuc"!

    Mgr. L-hn-Tu reported this to me. With Mgr. Pham-ngoc-Chi, the Bishop of Bui-dun's help he recruited troops from among his Pht-din parish children.  They were severely beaten and had to flee to South Vietnam. The activities of Mgr. Drapier, the apostolic delegate displeased the Vatican, which ordered him directly to Rome.  Due to this Mgr. Drapier was seized by great dissatisfaction and returned directly to France without stopping in Rome to give account of his diplomatic and religious activities. He was accompanied by his two adopted children, the orphans from the Middle East. They stood at his bed when he died.  As to Bo-dai:  He still lives in France at the expense of one of his numerous concubines.

***
    As I had made provisions for the spiritual and material needs of my Apostolic Vicariate, I believed that I could begin to rest a bit.  Then the Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the faith informed me and the other South Vietnamese Bishops that the Summus Pontifex wanted to establish a Catholic university in Vietnam.  French would be one of the official languages, in addition to Vietnamese, in order to train the Cambodians and Laotians who had formerly been a French protectorate.

    All of the South Vietnamese Bishops gathered in Saigon in response to the Holy Sees call. (The ones in the North could not participate because of the Communist regime).The meeting consisted of a Vietnamese majority and three French Bishops:  the Bishop of Quinhin, of Konhin and a Dominican Bishop who had fled from the north. Everyone was perplexed: Establish a university?  First:  With what can one build the university? Should we ask the faithful for donations?  The majority of the Christians from the South live in modest circumstances. Those Christians who fled from the North (almost a million) had only their Crucifix, a picture of the Virgin Mary and a bundle of clothes with them. The Government under Ngo-dinh-Diem assisted as much as possible to prevent them from starving to death and provided a monthly assisted to get them back on their feet. Would it be right to ask these starving poor millions to build a university?

    Assuming we did find money to build a university, where do we find the instructors? The normal human response to the Holy See had to be: "Non possumus." At best we could get a few thousand American dollarsa drop of water to water the desert and make it bloom! Since I was the dean, everyone turned to me. To me! The Bishop of a Vicariate (diocese) that had just been created and started to function normally. Build a university? I knew what a university was, whether in Rome or in Paris. It meant that we demand a miracle from the dear Lord. It would be a true creation as it is stated in Latin: "Ex nihilo sui et subiecti." This means: To produce a new life from the nothingness. But the Holy See wants this. The Holy Father, God's representative wants this.  The Vietnamese are people who believe in God's power and have always been His obedient children. The poor dean said at the meeting: "The Holy See wants the university, therefore God wants it.  Who will have it built, organize it and see that it lives and thrives?  No one answered my question. Therefore I had to answer: "My dear colleagues, I will jump into the cold water. Ask the dear Lord that I do not drown. Pray for me. I need a first class miracle!"

    We went our separate ways: My colleagues, glad that they did not have to make any sacrifices, not even a small one; the poor dean, who stayed behind all alone and circumspect. First, organize the finances! Upon praying, asking to be prayed for and asking for advice, someone came up with the following idea:  "Monsignor, if you succeeded in getting permission to exploit the forest that is about thirty kilometres away from Saigon you could easily find buyers, thousands of Chinese for example. The trees are a hundred years old and the Chinese live in Cholon, only a short distance away from Saigon.  They would happily take all the wood that you would have cut and get it on the world market in Hong Kong. Because the whole world needs wood."

    But then problems arose! First: to get the usage rights from the government, of course, with the permission and supervision of the forest superintendent's office. Secondly: to build a road about thirty kilometres long, from the forest to Saigon. Thirdly: to find a good foreman whose job it is to find lumberjacks.  The lumberjacks must be brave enough to confront the wild animals and especially the Communists, who are worse than the wild animals. I learned this phrase in Anninh's seminary:  "Tentare, quid nocet? It does not hurt to try. So I got started to request permission from my brother's government to cut the trees.

    My brother told me: "Ask my ministers. I cannot give you what you ask for even though I am for the foundation of a new university because we only have one, the one in Saigon, which has just started up. (Formerly, there was only one university in French-Indochina, located in Hanoi, and two high schools, one in Hanoi and one in Saigon, with one junior college From Providence" in Hue, with me as dean).

    I presented my inquiry to the government. The vice-president obliged his colleagues to grant me permission to log in light of the usefulness of a second university in South Vietnam. Of course I had to pay the government for this permission and had to submit to inspections by the foresters.

    Providence sent a very clever man for the project's management. He was a former student who had studied law in France and worked as a court recorder. The man introduced himself to me and assured me that he wished to contribute to the opening of a Catholic university since he was Catholic.  He demanded no compensation because he had a personal fortune.  This man is still alive; he since fled to France. I do not want to name his name since he served me very well. He knew how to find lumberjacks, negotiate with the forest superintendent's office and deal with the wild animals and perhaps the Communist guerrillas.  The forest was more than one thousand hectares large and just teemed with them. He also certainly knew how to serve himself.  After fleeing to France, he finally cheated me out of 3 million francs under the pretext of starting a good business: to purchase human hair in the Far East and to sell it to an American company, because the European and American women needed wigs.... he showed me letters from possible buyers, French and Americans. I submitted them to French experts: All thought that the project was interesting and that one could enter it without having to worry.  However it was a sneaky prank. This man took 3 million francs at the time and disappeared into Babylon, into Paris. I later found out that he used this money to open a Vietnamese restaurant. I wish him good luck.  His help had made it possible for me to build the university and to secure him an annual pension by purchasing Saigons best buildings.  The French, who had fled South Vietnam, had sold them at a loss because they thought that they would fall into Communist hands (foreigners' opinion). I intended to give this person the Portail library, the best library in Saigon, as reimbursement for his years of service to the university.  We are even. The 3 million that he had stolen from were less than the value of the former Portail library. I promptly removed his name from my will.

    I soon tackled the next problem:  Constructing an adequate road from the forest to Saigon. This was easy to solve: Christians from the south that were rather wealthy lent me some money to buy a bulldozer. After several months I had a good road, about 30 kilometres long, which belonged to me at exactly the right time to send the first load of beautiful wood for sale from my forest.

    From time to time the forest administrator, a big hunter before the Lord, sent me his trophies from hunting in Vinhlong.  His name is Pham-quang-Lc and he sent me large pieces of wild boar and elk antlers... we had difficulties with the game wardens who were accustomed to having their expert opinions paid for, but that was all included in the bills! These wardens were secretly advised by the minister of agriculture and forestry, a heathen who hated Catholics.  He did not dare to openly display his anti-Catholicism because of his fear of being fired by the president, my brother.  As far as I was concerned I had to behave like a monkey that kept his ears and eyes closed.  Why should I defend myself against a few pin pricks? The main thing is that the Lord's work is continued!

    The Lord really got the ball rolling now.  The forest provided enough money to build an American style university and to purchase the large buildings in Saigon.  I mentioned these earlier, the ones that the French offered to sell because they thought that H-chi-Minh's Communist hordes would march from north to south and simply sweep my brother's republic away.  Therefore, Escape if you can!  These buildings with huge ground floors were primarily rented to Chinese salesmen at astronomically high square meter prices.  The other floors were converted into luxury apartments that were rented in U.S. dollars to American officers who commanded the US military forces in Indochina. The rent was enough for the university building maintenance and for the salaries of the professors and employees.

    The University of Dalat might have been the only "self-sufficient" one in the world and that gave Catholics, who were too poor to cover their food and school costs, scholarships. Instead of having to support the university as in other cases, the Catholic students had free room and board.

    Where should the university be built? South Vietnam has a tropical climate which is difficult for physical and especially mental work during the 6 months of the hot season. There are practically only 2 seasons:  the rainy season and the hot season.  The rainy season is from October to March; the dry season is from April to September.  The dry season in Cochin-china is tempered by short intensive thunderstorms in the afternoon. The buildings would have to be air-conditioned in order to comfortably study.  All the Americans in South Vietnam did this, but the Vietnamese did not have enough money.

    Fortunately there is a plateau in South Vietnam that is about a 1000 meters high.  Dr Yersin, a Frenchman, had discovered it.  It was less than 100 kilometres away from Saigon and could be reached in less than an hour by airplane or in half a day by truck over a mountain road..  The name of the plateau is Dalat. Pines grow there and the climate is an eternal spring, where flowers and vegetables from temperate climates grow. Waterfalls provide cascades of clear fresh water and a small lake has drinking water and fish.

    Studying there would be a pleasure and one could easily pursue athletic activities. This is why your humble servant selected this location for the future university. Property prices were not high at that time, therefore I hastened to purchase considerable grounds with an eye for future expansion.  Formerly there were constructed on the site massive buildings that had served as a school for the children of the French.   According to the treaty, these buildings had been handed over to my brother, the president's government.  With regard to the acquisition of these buildings, my brother suggested that I turn to the French ambassador in Vietnam.  As I sounded him out, he expressed the wish that these buildings should be given to an institution that teaches the French language in memory of France. France's wish was in accordance with that of the Holy See. He had asked us to start a university where French would be the common language for the residents of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

    Therefore I received these beautiful buildings as a gift and also some small villas nearby, where the teachers of the children from these troops had lived. After a few repairs these buildings became the university's cradle.  I purchased about 10 hectares of the estates around this main area for the university, without mentioning the hundreds of hectares added for future expansion.

    With a lot of land and the money from the timber management, it was clear that I would emulate the American university concept:  separate buildings with a one floor limit for every subject, a spacious dormitory where the university students could live on campus and a beautiful chapel with belfry and a cross on its top.  It would be constructed on a rise so that it would be visible from everywhere on Dalat and a property near the chapel for the university seminary and its professors, the Jesuit priests.  The seminary clerics should teach up to the licentiate degree in theology.  A house for the skilful sisters from the various orders, a female dormitory and kilometres of streets through the campus. Even a soccer field and open space for handball, etc.! The rest of the grounds should be covered with an evergreen lawn and majestic shade trees here and there. Peace everywhere!

    Who would take over the task of building this small city? I had the luck to find a constructor.  He was a Belgian priest of German origin with an engineering degree from the University of Brussels where his atheist father had taught.  My future co-worker had not known the dear Lord until he was 20 years old. At this age God gave him and his sister the mercy of conversion. A costly conversion, because his father, indignant at his only son's conversion to Catholicism, threw his things out of the window and chased him permanently away from home.  The boy became a missionary in the order that the famous P. Lebbe had established. Pre Lebbe, as general Vicar of Peking, advocated transferring the Bishops office to Chinese native clergy. He was thrown out of his order, at which time he established a small Chinese order named the Small Brothers with a mission that had for the purpose to place themselves into the service of native Bishops. My future co-worker was consecrated as a priest and sent to Phat-Dim in the service of Mgr. L-hun-Tu, (the future commanding general of the Catholic army in the war against the Communist). The priest and engineer installed electricity there in the small city of Phat-Dim and taught the seminarians mathematics. After his defeated Bishop escaped from the communists, this Belgian father asked me for hospitality. I nominated him as professor to the small seminary where he succeeded in teaching his students the theorems of geometry and algebra, despite his ignorance of the Vietnamese language.

    Father Willig (his name) converted as an adult and had a late calling. He also had a very difficult character; it was difficult to deal with him, but he liked the president, my brother Dim, and me. He always remained loyal to us in bad times and in his own misfortune, which was the result of his very stubborn character. He constructed the various buildings and the university chapel and had the small villas around the university repaired. He did it cost effectively.  Therefore he was somewhat frustrated when he found out that he had not been nominated as dean of the university. I could not do this as it would be against the spirit of the Holy See and against the spirit of his order which had been founded by the holy Pre Lebbe. The order had been established to support the native clergy and not to dominate it.
    After the completion of the buildings he said goodbye to me and took employment with the Americans who had arrived in Vietnam.  His projects included the installation of electricity, well drillings and other projects that were useful to our country.. My brother, the president, awarded him an important citation and paid for a round trip to Belgium so that he could visit his sister and recover. After my brother's assassination he went back to Europe and is currently a priest in a small worker centre in France.

    He still feels homesickness for Vietnam but the steps that he took with the Bishops that knew him, such as Mgr. Tham-ngoc-Chi, who represented Mgr. L-hn-T, were unsuccessful. I could do nothing more for him since Americans who ruled the south forced the obstruction of my return to my homeland. I was regarded as a pacifist and opponent of the civil war between the north and the south. Later, after all that happened, I had the joy of meeting him in Belgium. There he introduced me to his sister, the wife of an important industrialist. I spent a few days in the industrialist's summer residence, which was restful for me. If I speak about the Congregation for the support of native clergy established by P. Lebbe, I think that I must also mention P. Raymond de Jagher. He was also a Belgian priest, but his character was completely different than P. Willig's. My brother, the President, appreciated him greatly.  He had been in the service of the Chinese Bishops during which he had been thrown into the prison by the Mao-Tse-Tung's Communists and had written a wonderful book about his imprisonment. Freed, he then placed himself into the service of Cardinal Yupin on Formosa.  In the meanwhile he came to Saigon, where he opened a school for Chinese with my brother's help. P. de Jagher speaks and writes Chinese as if were his native tongue; he speaks American English and now spends his time with holding lectures for the benefit of Chinese Catholics who left their country, and also for the benefit of Vietnamese who had fled to America and other places. He is a missionary loyal to the ideals of P. Lebbe.  

***

    Now I had to organize the instruction at the university. First we wanted start with a liberal arts faculty, then a science faculty, and with the subjects that did not require many machines such as: philosophy, history, Vietnamese, French, English, and mathematics along with the theological and philosophical faculties managed by the Jesuit Priests.

    The professors were recruited from among the European missionaries, the University of Saigon or people from orders who were in Cochin-china.  Most of the people who taught at our university were not Catholic. By airplane they could reach Dalat in less than 45 minutes.  After their lectures they rested in cool spring climate and the agreeable air of Dalat. They took their meals with the Father from the university and returned to Saigon after a relaxing weekend.  My forest allowed me to pay them a good salary.

    Since I could not constantly be in Dalat, I assumed the title of a university chancellor and a council of several Bishops stood by my side including the Bishop of Dalat, Mgr. Hien. Mgr. Hien was a former student of mine in Hus major seminary. There was also Mgr. Piquet of the foreign missions from Paris and Bishop of Nhahang assisting me.  I nominated Father Thien, whom I had sent to France to acquire his academic titles, as dean of the university.

    The Lord's mercy allowed me to realize this project which was regarded as utopian when the Holy See had presented it to us. More than 15 years have passed since this foundation.  I am in exile in Europe. Fifteen years of existence have been celebrated with wonderful parties, which united the Bishops from Central and South Vietnam with the government's representatives from Saigon (which had not yet fallen into Communist hands), and the Holy See sent a message of congratulation and several speeches were held. Only the name of the university's founder was forgotten because his name does not please today's Vatican. Ends well, alls well. I founded the university in order to obey the Vatican of that time. God helped me. His is the honour and glory for all eternity. Amen.

***

    After Mgr. Drapier's departure,  we received an Irish apostolic delegate named Mgr. Dosley. He was the former head of the Irish missionaries from St. Kolumban (and later was head of the Australian houses). He was chosen but had to learn French in order to be able to communicate with our missionaries, our priests and our authorities. Mgr. Dosley is a pious man and is still alive, but was unfamiliar with the former Vietnam previously during the French rule.  He did not understand the threat that Ho-chi-Minh's Communists posed.
He and I had our differences. He called me a trouble maker when I proposed that we take precautions to minimalize the damage in case that the Communists should gain the upper hand.  For example:  to translate all of the philosophy and theology books that our seminary used into Vietnamese. To find hiding places for Mass wine because the wine that grows in Vietnam is unsuitable for Mass;  to keep the names of new priests secret;   for each Bishop to obtain authority from the Holy See to name one or  two successors in the event that contact to the Vatican be broken off, etc.  To be able to do this without having to seek permission from the Holy See again, etc. Mgr. Dosley trusted the French armys optimistic talk and accused me of pessimism.  He was surprised by the Communist wave in Hanoi and became their prisoner for months along with his secretary, a fellow countryman and a missionary priest of St. Kolumban. He was freed when he was physically and mentally exhausted and taken aboard an airplane by stretcher in order to return to Europe.  After a long period of convalescence in Rome he met with me, an exile in Rome and humbly said: "Monsignor, you were completely right."  

    I was neither prophet nor fortune teller, but prevention does not hurt because it is unpardonable to be caught due to carelessness. Now the Holy See must allow Vietnam's Bishops to have one or two designatees (Bishops) during their lifetimes, one of which is a coadjutor.

    After Mgr. Dosley, we had other apostolic delegates, like Mgr. Brini, imposed upon us.  Today Mgr. Brini is the secretary of the Holy Congregation for the Orient. Mgr. Caprio replaced Mgr. Benelli when he became Cardinal of Florence.

    Mgr. Brini was an Apostolic Delegate when the Holy See created the Vietnamese hierarchy.  Formerly the Bishops were only apostolic vicars. Mgr. Brini was therefore charged with placing into office the Apostolic Vicars as Archbishops of the Archdioceses of Saigon, Hu and Hanoi, or Bishops in the remaining dioceses.  Mgr. Brini went to Hu to appoint me as Archbishop.  Since he was too exhausted by our climate, he then put me in charge of appointing the Bishops, who were under the influence of the archdiocese Hu. Therefore, I had to travel to Quinhn, Kontum and other places in order to appoint the title bearers.  Mgr. Caprio was more of a diplomat than Mgr. Brini, who had not visited the academy of the church nobles, where the Holy See's future diplomats are trained.  Paul VI had been trained there. Mgr. Brini, having been called late, became a priest after he had acquired his Doctorate in civil law. He then entered the Russicum, the seminary for the Catholic Russians.  He learned this language there and it for him as a springboard to become secretary of the Holy Congregation for the Orient and future Cardinal, if God allows him to live.

***

    Since I was an apostolic delegate, I have been in contact with a great number of the Holy See's representatives for more than 40 years. Several of these representatives were from among the missionaries and others were career diplomats who had learned their trade at the church Pontifical Academy that had once been the Pontifical Academy of the Nobles in the Service of the Church and had been established in 1701. As such, I believe that I am able to make this comment:  What role do these representatives of the Holy See play?  They should inform Rome about the religious conditions in the delegation's jurisdiction.  Career missionaries appear to be more experienced than young diplomats who have only been in contact with already organized dioceses in Europe.

    Less than 10 years ago the predominant nationality of the delegates that emerged was Italian: Mostly Italians from the south, where poverty is the clergy's normal situation.  There is only one way to escape this poverty: the diplomatic career, where promotion to prelate and Archbishop is very quick.  One has the privilege to see the world, since all diplomats change their assignment every 10 years. They retire as cardinals and often become prefects of the Holy Congregations and sometimes become the highest shepherd.  Diplomacy, therefore, opens the way up for everything. But did Jesus train his apostles like this? I do not know what I should answer. My little personal experience tells me that one could do better for the welfare of the church.

    I have now arrived at a turning point of my church life. After 22 years as a Bishop I was transferred to the archdiocese Hu as an Archbishop. Despite the conversion of Vietnam's hierarchy, that previously consisted of apostolic Vicariates, into dioceses and archdioceses, she is still dependent upon the Holy Congregation "de Propagatione Fide", which is currently  also named  the Holy Congregation for The evangelization of the people (nations)."

    Why to Hu, my city of birth?   The church usually avoids nominating a Bishop for the management of a diocese where his family comes from. The reason is obvious. In Vietnam, the former emperors also avoided naming native provincial governors since they could be suspected of favouring their family.  My mother, sisters and brothers still lived in Hu. My former teacher, Cardinal Agagianian, Prefect of the Holy Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, revealed the reason for this exception. He told me, "you should have been Archbishop of Saigon, my son, but your brother, president Dim governs in Saigon. If you had become the Archbishop of Saigon, political and the religious power would be in the hands of the members of one and the same family. Therefore you were nominated for Hu because Hanoi is in Communist hands."  It appears to be my fate to pick up the ruins, more than that, either to make a diocese from the pieceslike the one in Vinhlong,  or to create a university as the one in Dalat.  Very hard work particularly if you must start with nothing; but it has an advantage: You can do as you please. On the other hand reconstruction of ruins includes the diligence to save whatever could be still used. Now a new minor seminary had to be built in the old diocese of Hu.  Since the old Anninh seminary was in the Communist zone, I had to enlarge the major seminary of Phu-xun so that it could accept more than 100 major seminarians from dioceses dependent upon the archdiocese. These expansions included the chapel, the classrooms and the dormitory that belonged to Hu.  It is a venerable, almost 100 year old building that once housed a maximum of about 30 clerics.  Fortunately there was enough land.

    The diocese of Hu, known for the good reputation of its scholars and devout clergy, was the poorest in Vietnam. The reason? The persecution, that had lasted more than 200 years, ravaged all the properties of the dioceses and parishes in Vietnam.  After the French conquest produced religious peace, the Vietnamese government had to grant the Catholic missions compensation for the destruction of churches and other Catholic facilities.  The missions used this money either to purchase rice paddies or for the construction of churches. At this time Hu had a Bishop from Cochin-china, Mgr. Caspar, an Alsatian from the Paris foreign mission. Now the mission in Cochin-china lives from the rice paddies. This prelate therefore wanted to apply the same politics as in Saigon and acquired rice paddies with the compensation destined for the diocese of Hu.  The rice paddy situation in Hu was quite different than that of Cochin-china, where there are good and inexpensive rice paddies.  In Hu, as a contrast, there are few rice paddies and especially very few good ones.

    The representatives employed by the Bishop for the purchase of the  rice paddies were not all honest. The result was tragic: Hectares of sand were acquired at horrendous prices or good rice paddies were purchased, although their owners had not sold them.  Therefore there were dreadful disputes when the diocese sent people to work the fields! The disaster was irreparable.

    I was confronted with an impossible situation. Luckily, my brother, President Dim, helped me generously and discreetly. Thanks to his alms (donations)whose amount only God knowsI could build a modern minor seminary, two steps away from the Bishop's palace and enlarge my major seminary and repair the cathedral which had fallen into debris. I was also able to modernize the Bishop's palace so that priests could be received there, besides building a house for retired priests.  

    One problem that occupied my thoughts: How was the Hu diocese to be freed of its poverty? How could each parish be equipped with enough means to care of their normal requirements, as I had done in Vinhlong?  My brother Dim's government enacted an agrarian law at just this time.  A loan determined for the reforestation of uncultivated estates that belonged to communities or villages.  

    There are dirt cheap sandy estates for sale in the Tha-This (Hu) and Quangtri provinces that make up my Archdiocese.   Therefore I petitioned the state for a loan of several million Piasters for the reforestation of these estates.  After ten years we would pay the state loan back with interest.  I gathered my priests and explained the project to them. If a parish wanted a loan to develop nearby uncultivated estates, the priest, with the consent of the parish, would send in a petition.  The petition contained the surface area of these estates, the required loan amount and the type of trees to be planted.  After examination by the diocesan council and careful consideration the loan would be given into the priests hands and he would commence with reforestation.   He would report to the Bishops council every year during the spiritual exercises about his work. The inspection of the areas and the results would be performed by the relevant district Deans.

    The majority of the priests submitted petitions according to this plan.  These sandy estates could only support a single tree type, a type of conifer that the French called "Filiao". It produces passable lumber but it is very good heating wood. It grows very rapidly and has branches with many needles that are suitable for rice and food cooking.  The more the branches are cut off, the faster the other branches grow! After selling this firewood the parish would have normally repaid the loan with interest in ten years.
 
    Mind you: The loan was not compulsory. The priest could ask for it or not.  In this case a new priest could develop a piece of land neglected by his predecessor and could submit a petition to the Bishops' council for a reforestation loan. To be certain, however I gave the deanship collective responsibility for the planting, loan repayment and usage of the plantations.

    Since there was a large sum remaining from state granted loan, I purchased a swampy and therefore not expensive piece of property across from my Bishop's palace. There I had a large building constructed.  The rooms were to be rented to public servants working in Hu. I also bought a large coconut palm and "Filiao" plantation in Longc for the needs of the diocesan seat.  

    Thanks be to God, this project seemed very promising. Everyone got to the work and in the couple of years that passed in Hu, most parishes were able to save the money from the sale of the Filao-branches that were cut annually.  The building opposite the Bishop's palace was fully rented and provided the diocese with constant income with the interest earnings.

    Unfortunately it is Hu's lot to remain poor since the Vietcong (Communists) crept in throughout my diocese that was about 50 kilometres away from the Communist border.  The Communist Guerrillas invaded our two provinces and forbade our priests to repay the loans to the government in Saigon.  An unimaginable accusation from Archbishop Din resulted from this situation. He had been named successor at the seat in Hu by the Holy See when I was banished to Europe.  At the time he accused me of pocketing the millions that Saigon had lent for reforestation.

    The Holy Congregation for Propagation of the Faith wrote me a letter that reported this infamous accusation the moment I returned to Rome, after I had buried my niece.  She was my brother Nhus eldest daughter; she was run over near Paris by two trucks driven by Americans.  

    I answered the Holy Congregation immediately that they should let my accuser be known: first, that Bishop Din, who lives in the bishops palace constructed with my own money, ask the Father Procurator of the mission residing in the Bishop palace to hand over the documents relevant to the loans granted to the parishes for the reforestation;  second, that Bishop Din should inspect the large coconut and filao plantation near Lange; third, Didnt Bishop Din collect the rent from the building I constructed myself, which is across from the house that he lives in?; finally, I reserve the right to quote him in the court of Rota because of slander.

    Furthermore, since the mail between Europe and South Vietnam still existed, I wrote to my priests in Hu and accused them of not having informed the assistant Bishop about the reforestation project.  However, these priests responded that they had told Mgr. Din the truth about the government loan during the annual spiritual exercises:  that Bishop Thuc had never seen the money stored in the Commissary.  Mgr. Serve therefore had accused me of theft, although he knew it was slander.

    Terrified by my threat of taking this story to the Roman court, Mgr Din then asked me for forgiveness. There we have the sincerity of this excellent friend of Paul VI, the Pope, who had forced me to resign before the legal deadline so that Mgr. Din would be named the Archbishop of Hu and could exercise his practice of extending a hand to the Communists in order to undermine the Saigon government.  Mgr. Din also used the millions, whose owner I was, without asking me for permission!

 
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