Catholic journalists in the U.S. and Canada don’t spend much time thinking that they just might land in jail for what they write. About the worst thing that happens to us is that a reader takes issue with what we write or crazy bloggers go after us. Once in a while we get the sack. It’s easy to forget that the same can’t be said of our colleagues in other lands. They go to jail or worse, get killed.
One such heroic Catholic journalist died last week. We should note his passing.
Father Phero Truong Ba Can, longtime editor in chief of Vietnam’s Catholicism and The Nation magazine, died at 79. A funeral Mass was held for this great journalist in Ho Chi Minh City July 13 and drew thousands of mourners.
Father Can was born in 1930 in Vietnam and was ordained at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1958. After earning his doctoral degree, he returned to Vietnam and became editor of Face to Face. An article he penned, “25 Years of Socialism in the North,” earned him a nine-month stint in jail during the regime of President Nguyen Van Thieu.
Father Can was an ardent anti-war activist throughout the many years of conflict in Vietnam and remain committed to peace throughout his life. He fought for democracy and workers’ rights and against the torture of students during the Vietnam War and beyond. He thought Catholics in Vietnam should work for the welfare of their nation. It was a common theme in his writing.
In 2001, the International Catholic Union of the Press honored him with its Gold Award for lifetime achievement, though the award drew the ire of some Vietnamese Catholics.