The delegation will visit Vietnam from March 23 to April 9 to speak to people who knew Francois-Xavier Van Thuan, media said.

Van Thuan was appointed Saigon's assistant archbishop a week before the South Vietnamese capital fell to communist forces in April 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War.

Van Thuan, who was the nephew of Ngo Dinh Diem, South Vietnam's first president until his assassination in 1963, was then locked up in a detention camp in the town of Nha Trang.

In his cell, he wrote meditations on his spiritual experiences on the back of old calendars.

In an interview with missionary news agency Fides on Tuesday, Vietnamese Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop said Van Thuan was a man "who had the Gospel as his only criteria."

After he was freed in 1989, he was forced into exile in Rome, where he eventually was made cardinal by Pope John Paul II. Van Thuan died in 2002.

Beatification is a high Catholic honour that bestows the title of "Blessed". It is one step away from canonisation, which bestows sainthood.

About seven percent of Vietnam's population is Roman Catholic.

Agence France Presse - March 21, 2012