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PASSINGS / Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung

Retired Hanoi archbishop

March 02, 2009|Times staff and wire reports

Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, 89, the retired archbishop of Hanoi who was an advocate for restoring ties between Vietnam and the Vatican, died Feb. 22 in Hanoi, Vatican Radio reported.

His death came days after the Vatican and Vietnam said they had laid a good basis for establishing diplomatic relations.

Tensions have existed for years between the church and Vietnam's communist government, which cut off ties with the Vatican after taking power in 1954. The government closely monitors religious groups and insists on approving most church appointments.

Vietnam's estimated 8 million Catholics are a small percentage of the country's population of 79 million, but they constitute the largest Catholic community in Southeast Asia outside the Philippines.

Tung, who was named a bishop in 1963, had been under virtual house arrest until the 1990s. Vatican Radio said during that time he dedicated himself to studying the Gospels, Christian doctrine and sacramental poetry.

Tung was born May 20, 1919, in Ninh Binh, Vietnam. He went to seminary school in Hanoi and was ordained a priest in 1949.

He was elevated to cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994.

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