09/06/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Bishops extend solidarity to faithful of Thai Ha

by J.B. An Dang
The bishop of Haiphong denounces the campaign of defamation against Catholics on the part of the government media. In a letter to the authorities, 82 priests of the capital appeal "not to criminalize such a dispute of a civil nature", and not to use "violent" security measures.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Two bishops and thousands of Catholics yesterday went to extend their solidarity to the faithful of the parish of Thai Ha, participating in processions and prayer vigils to call for justice regarding the land belonging to the church. At the same time, 82 priests of the capital have written to the government appealing "not to criminalize such a dispute of a civil nature", in which the parish is pitted against the Chien Thang Sewing Company.

The bishop of Haiphong, Joseph Vu Van Thien, together with hundreds of Catholics of his diocese, traveled one hundred kilometers to express solidarity with the peaceful demonstrators. "In these days”, he said, “media coverage has bewildered and confused Catholics and non-Catholics. There have been so many news reports defaming the reputation and dignity of Catholics. Let us pray so that everybody knows how to respect the truth and defend justice”.

The same day, 3,000 faithful from Thai Binh went with Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang (in the photo) to Hanoi. “I bring you,” said Bishop Francis after a short prayer service, “a rosary bead that was blessed by the pope himself in the hope that our Mother of Perpetual Help will save you from dangers and chaos”. Addressing the police officers present, “for the non-Catholics and non-believers”, he added, “I also wish you good help and peace”. His words were welcomed by many of the officers.

As for the priests of Hanoi, in their letter they ask the authorities "not to criminalize such a dispute of a civil nature", and "not to take security measures of violent nature in resolving the parishioners’ legitimate demand".

The priests then say that the government “must not broadcast news that is one-way, distortional, defaming, insulting to the priests, brothers and parishioners, immediately investigate and prosecute those individuals and organizations who have savagely assaulted the parishioners while they were praying peacefully, and not terrorize or apply discriminating or prejudicial treatment to Catholic students and public servants”.

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