Vietnamese bishop who has headed a large diocese in South Vietnam dies at 80 on Sunday Oct 17, after years of struggling to perform his duties under scrutiny of the regime.

Bishop Emmanuel Le Phong Thuan was born in An Giang province on Dec. 1, 1930. He entered the local Cu Lao Gieng Minor Seminary in 1938 and another minor seminary in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in 1945.

On completion his philosophical and theological studies at Saint Joseph Major Seminary in Saigon, he was ordained as priest in Can Tho diocese on May 31, 1960. He then taught at a local minor seminary before furthered his studies in Rome and Germany from 1964-1970 where he obtained a doctorate degree in canon law.

Returning to Vietnam in 1970, he had taught at local major seminaries until he was installed as coadjutor bishop of Can Tho on June 6, 1975. At that time, the diocese was vacant but the late bishop could only become ordinary of the diocese on June 20, 1990 after so many Vatican-Vietnam talks on the issue.

The strict scrutiny of the regime had been so harsh that for years the bishop office had neither telephone nor other means of communication. The late prelate had been so ill that he rarely could attend bishops' meetings in the last 5 years.

Sharing the same fate as the neighbouring Vinh Long diocese, a large number of Church properties in his jurisdiction have been seized by the government since 1975. The situation made the late bishop so distressed. “He brought that sadness down to the grave in deep sorrow,” said a close friend of the late prelate.