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    » 05/20/2009, 00.00

    VIETNAM

    No “power or influence” can shake Catholic communities

    Trung Tin

    The faithful face a lot of difficulties in places like Son La where the authorities have decreed that “there is no need for religion” and enforced a ban on Mass for years. Now the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom has come to town.
    Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Anyone visiting Vietnam can see how religious the Vietnamese are. Every Sunday churches are crowded. Whether in the countryside or in mountain villages, the faithful get up for early Mass during the week; Catholics in Saigon do the same. After that they go to work, in rice fields or offices, whilst youth go to school.

    When Card Crescenzio Sepe visited Vietnam in 2007 he was struck by such faith. “People go to Mass in large numbers,” he said. “They are very religious and diligent. They take religious rituals to heart, bringing their faith in God and the Church.”

    All this is the result of the sacrifice made by 117 Vietnamese saints who died for their faith, so that today, confronted with life’s many challenges, Vietnamese Catholics are steadfast in their belief in God and the Church.

    On 12 May a delegation of the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) travelled to Vietnam in order to meet dissidents and Catholics, both lay people and clergymen, who are discriminated by local authorities.

    Wherever they went local officials were conspicuous by their absence.

    Yesterday the delegation met some lay people from a community in Moc Chau district (Son La province) who belong to one of several underground churches that exist in an area of mountains and fields, some 25 kilometres from the city of Moc Chau. 

    The community is made up of some 700 families who migrated to the province from up north in search of a better life. Many of these Catholics have children studying at Son La University.

    Here in Son La local authorities are in charge of matters religious. Back in 2004 they passed a bylaw on religious issues and decided that people should not have religious freedom. Indeed even though Son La Catholics constitute one of three Catholic communities in the diocese of Hung Hoa, local authorities have “ruled that the city of Son La does not need religion.” 

    For all these years city officials have kept Catholics and their communities under a watchful eye, especially at Christmas, Easter and other religious holidays.

    Over these many years they have not only decreed that Mass should be banned, but they have also ruled that religious activities involving lay people (pictured, an altar under a staircase in Son La) are a no-no. They have decided that “no one has the right to go other people’s homes to pray”.

    As an old Vietnamese saying puts it, “Every local ruler is the king of the village;” thus local authorities can do as they see fit. 

    Never the less, as everyone knows Vietnamese Catholics have always kept their faith and belief in God and the Church whatever the circumstances; “no power or influence” can shake that. 

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    See also

    22/09/2005 VATICAN – VIETNAM
    Cardinal Sepe to visit Vietnam in November
    The visit is strictly pastoral and has no bearing on diplomatic talks. A new diocese in Ba Ria is to be inaugurated.

    26/09/2008 VIETNAM
    In Hanoi thugs again in action in front of archbishop’s office
    An iron cross erected in the garden of the former apostolic delegation is destroyed. Redemptorists demand respect for the law. US Commission on International Religious Freedom calls on the State Department to place again Vietnam on its worst offenders list.

    18/11/2005 VIETNAM – VATICAN
    Making history, 57 deacons to be ordained in northern Vietnam
    Cardinal Sepe, who is scheduled to visit the country in late November, will ordain the new deacons. According to Hanoi's Seminary, the large number of candidates is a sign that important changes are taking place in the Church and the government.

    30/03/2015 VIETNAM
    Kontum, communist authorities threaten to tear down 22 chapels. Appeal from Bishop
    The leadership of Djak Tô district want to demolish dozens of private premises used for prayers and functions. The area lacks churches and in the past, people would travel up to 100 km to attend mass. Faithful turn to the bishop, who responds with a letter. While calling for calm, the prelate recalls the right to religious freedom recognized by the government.

    14/10/2008 VIETNAM
    Authorities in Hue trying to seize land where a small country church stands
    What is happening in Hanoi is spreading. A campaign of intimidation and harassment is underway elsewhere in the country to seize land whose owner passed away but where he had allowed the construction of a small church.



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