09/09/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM

False priests appear on Hanoi media to discredit Catholics

J.B. An Dang
In the dispute over Thai Ha parish property, state TV and government newspapers introduce party officials as priests. For the diocese these men "were ‘ordained’ by the government."
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Some priests have appeared on Vietnamese state TV and have been interviewed by government newspapers speaking out against Thai Ha parishioners who want the restitution of parish property, except that these men of the cloth are neither priests nor Catholic. At least one of them has in fact been identified as a Communist party official. “They were ‘ordained’ by the government,” was the scathing comment from the diocese of Hanoi.  

As this is happening Catholics are still carrying on their peaceful protests in Hanoi. Flyers expressing solidarity to the parishioners and the Redemptorist Fathers, the original owners of the disputed land, are being handed out all over the place. 

Mgr Anthony Vu Huy Chuong, bishop of Hung Hoa, a diocese on the border with Laos in the country’s extreme north, sent a ‘Letter of Communion’ to the provincial superior of the  Redemptorists of Vietnam and to the superior of Thai Ha Monastery.

“I have prayed,” Bishop Vu wrote, “that justice and the truth may be honoured not only in Thai Ha but also everywhere people have to suffer injustice and dishonesty.

“Recently,” he added, “the vicar of Can Kiem told me that the man who appeared on TV against Thai Ha claiming to speak on behalf of Can Kiem parishioners is in fact a government official, and not even a Catholic.”

Faced with such a “sad and wearisome” campaign of falsehoods and disinformation by state media, the bishop called on Catholics to pray.

Similarly, Pham Huy Ba and Nguyen Van Nhat, the two men who were introduced on state TV last Sunday as priests speaking out against Thai Ha parishioners, are further evidence of what Mgr Vu Huy Chuong said.

In a statement the diocese of Hanoi flatly dismissed any claim by these ‘clergymen’.

“They have never been priests,” the statement read. “One may suppose they were ‘ordained’ by the government,” it added.

In the meantime in Thai Ha thousands of Catholics (see photo) are still meeting every day to pray.

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