01/11/2008, 00.00
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A “protest” prayer blocks Hanoi traffic

by J.B. An Dang
A thousand catholics go in procession to the building that once housed the apostolic delegation which the archbishop wants returned to the Church. A petition drive has been launched in favour of this step. For almost a month the faithful have been gathering to demonstrate their support for the demand.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Traffic came to a halt in Hanoi after a group of Catholics organised a new form of protest. It happened yesterday when, after a Mass celebrated for the 89th birthday of Card Paul Joseph Pham Đinh Tùng, former archbishop of Hanoi, more than a thousand priests, men religious and faithful went in procession to the building that once housed the apostolic delegation that was confiscated by the authorities and is currently being used as a night club with its garden turned into a parking lot for government officials.

Hanoi’s current archbishop, Mgr Joseph Ngô Quang Kiêt, told his congregation in a letter dated 15 December that the building had been taken over in 1959 and that he was demanding its return. He also invited them to pray so that justice may be done.

Three days later Hanoi Catholics gathered in front of the building, which is part of a larger compound that includes the Bishop’s Residence and Saint Joseph cathedral, brought flowers and candles, and began praying.

Yesterday the “protest” prayer took place around noon catching police by surprise. The net result was that traffic was blocked for hours.

“We vow to fight for the justice to the end”, said one of the demonstrators.

The 18 December event was the first public demonstration by Catholics in the capital. On the 23rd a petition was launched to be submitted to local government authorities. On the 30th Mgr Joseph Ngô Quang Kiêt met Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng. But so far nothing has been done.

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