Hanoi (AsiaNews) - "The land and the Carmelite monastery at 72 Nguyễn Thái Học Street belong to the Archdiocese of Hanoi." The Church "never offered the government any of the 95 buildings that the latter is using across the city," wrote Mgr Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, archbishop of Hanoi, in a letter to Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng and the municipal authorities posted on the archdiocese's website.
On 3 January, the authorities began tearing down the Carmelite monastery to build a new, five-storey hospital. However, Catholic sources believe there is more than meets the eye, and plans other the hospital might be involved. The monastery with its church has been located at 72 Nguyễn Thái Học Street for more than a century.
After the recent conviction of young activists, the archbishop of Hanoi, Mgr Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, sent an urgent letter to Vietnam's prime minister, his fifth appeal, in order to stop this latest attack against the Catholic community. He also wrote to municipal authorities for the same reason. However, so far his rightful requests have fallen on deaf ears.
In the letter, the prelate reminded the authorities that "the Church's essential mission is to serve the people." In all of its history, the Archdiocese of Hanoi has given "its warm support to the efforts" made to "meet the health needs of the city's residents". Speaking about the city's health care facilities, he said, "Four of Hanoi's ten hospitals use buildings that belong to the Church".
For Mgr Nguyen Van Nhon, that is not all. Using strong words, he "objects" to the "illegal demolition" of the Carmelite monastery for three specific reasons. First, the state has enough land or means to build a hospital or turn existing buildings into one. Secondly, for Catholics, the Carmelite monastery "is a historic and sacred place." Finally, the monastery and its adjacent church must be accessible to the members of Saint Dominic Parish "for the purpose of worship".
In ending his letter, the prelate called on the faithful "to come together in prayer" to defend the "rightful rights of the Church".