Hanoi (AsiaNews) - After threats, action. It seems that the proponents of repression against Catholics have won in Hanoi, partly by violating previous commitments. Protected by an imposing police deployment, a group of laborers unexpectedly arrived at dawn at the building of the former nunciature, knocked down the railing around it, and began work (in the photo). According to a television report, the building will be demolished to create a public park.
Priests and faithful who came from the nearby cathedral of St Joseph, summoned by the bells, were stopped. Two arrests have been reported.
Also today, the newspaper of the communist party, Nhan Dan, reports that in a meeting on September 17, the people's committee (the municipal administration) of Hanoi said that it "is willing to consider priests and religious followers’ legitimate needs for expanding worship places", in keeping with the law. The same source says that the deputy head of the committee, Vu Hong Khanh, met with a representative of the parish of Thai Ha and of the petitions advanced "by some priests" regarding the land, which the Redemptorists are asking be returned.
At the same time, however, the communist representative asserts that since 1961, "the state" has granted the land to a clothing company, the Chien Thang Garment Joint Stock Company. The work that this company began at the start of the year was at the origin of the demonstrations by the parishioners, who are asking that the land, the property of the Redemptorists since 1928, be given back and nationalized "for public use".
But that's not enough. "To handle the parish’s needs and petitions", the people's committee is asking for the removal of the crosses and other religious symbols placed on the land in question, and that it be given back to the authorities of the district of Dong Da, so that they can proceed with "the management and formulation of a public work construction project".
And even that's not enough. Khanh has ordered inspections and controls to see whether there have been violations of the law, and has warned the priests to caution the parishioners to avoid "aggressive behavior". And with reference to the "violations of the law" on the part of the faithful, there is also a thinly veiled threat toward the religious: "whoever they may be, they are citizens first, and must respect the law".
And that's still not all. The same newspaper reports the arrest of "a person for his involvement in the recent case of the disturbance of public order" in Thai Ha. This is Pham Chi Nang, 50, who "admitted to investigators that he joined other people to destroy the wall surrounding the land" and "disturbed public order".
All of this is taking place only three months after the visit to Vietnam by a Vatican delegation headed by Monsignor Pietro Parolin, undersecretary for relations with states, which seemed to signal the choice of dialogue good relations. On that occasion, there was talk about beginning "as soon as possible" the activity of the working group, charged with establishing the timetable and means for the normalization of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, and also of the "gradual restoration to ecclesiastical use of properties previously nationalized".
All of this comes after, on February 2, the archbishop of Hanoi, Joseph Ngô Quang Kiệt, announced the government's promise to give the building of the former nunciature back to the Church. On February 27, making no reference to the previous commitment, Trân Dinh Phung, a permanent member of the patriotic front and the head of religious and ethnic affairs, expressing the point of view of the prime minister on the affair, described as "completely legitimate" the Church's requests to be able to use the building for the activities of the bishops' conference. " The government cannot ignore", he had said, the request from the leaders of 7 million Vietnamese Catholics, who for 27 years, since the creation of the episcopal conference, have worked together with the nation.