05/07/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM

59 Catholics from Con Dau arrested for accompanying funeral

J.B. An Dang
Letter From Bishop of Nagni, protesting and calling for release of the detained. The government denies the police attack, but admits that the land of the cemetery is no longer usable, since it is destined to become a "residential area".

Da Nang (AsiaNews) - Participants at a funeral were attacked by police and 59 of them were arrested. The episode has was denounced by the Bishop of Da Nang in central Vietnam, Mgr. Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri, in a pastoral letter condemning the incident and calling on the faithful and authorities to control themselves to prevent further violence.

In the document, dated May 6, the bishop reports that on May 4, in the parish of Con Dau, during the procession for the funeral of Mary Tan, 82, police intervened to prevent the burial in the cemetery. For almost an hour there were clashes between the faithful and 500 police resulting in the arrest of 59 people. "The police went looking for other believers," the bishop writes.

Yesterday, the Vietnamese government denied that the Catholics were arrested or injured. According to the spokesman of Foreign Ministry, Nguyen Phuong Nga, "this information is false and aimed only to slander Vietnam". "The truth - she said - is that this affair has nothing to do with religion." Nga had denied the burial was blocked, but added that it is known that the cemetery is located in an area destined for a new residential zone and so can not be used.

The fact is that the bishop is calling for the immediate release of those arrested. And the cemetery, where many Catholics have been buried, is one of those areas that have become attractive in the recent hike in land values and one on which local authorities, it seems, are planning to build a tourist resort.  

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