Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Authorities in the Vietnamese capital have begun demolition work on the church and centuries old Carmelite monastery in Hanoi, a historic building in the centre of a long battle between the government and Church leaders over land ownership. The local authority intends to erase all traces of the buildings - demolition work began on the 3rd of January - and build in their place a five-story hospital (see AsiaNews 26/05/2011 Archbishop of Hanoi against the demolition of Sisters of Saint Paul convent). However, Catholic sources in the Archdiocese speak of "secret projects" that would affect the area, "very different" from the construction of a hospital to serve the city.
The church and monastery are located on 72 Nguyễn Thái Học Street, Hanoi, and are over a hundred years old. In an attempt to stop this latest attack on the Catholic community after the recent conviction of young activists, the Archbishop, Peter Nguyen Van Nhon sent an urgent appeal to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. This is the fifth petition addressed to the heads of government, although to date they have failed to provide the desired results. At the same time, the bishop has sent an appeal to the authorities in the capital, even in this case, the "legitimate" Catholics' request was deliberately "ignored".
According to the Hanoi authorities, the claims of Msgr. Nguyen Van Nhon are unfounded because the possession of land is attributable to the State. The curia apparently "entrusted the land" the city administration, which then decided to donate the area to the Department of Health for the building of Xanh-Pôn hospital.
In contrast, the documents clearly show that the ownership of land - on which the Carmelite monastery stands - has belonged to the Archdiocese of Hanoi for over a hundred years. And the curia has "never" handed over or entrusted to the use and possession of the area to the Hanoi authorities: it was in fact a case of forced expropriation, perpetrated with the use of force in violation of the law.
The archbishop of Hanoi sent letters to priests, religious and lay people asking for their prayers for the Church, for justice and peace in Vietnam, for full religious freedom in the country. Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr. Hung invites Vietnamese Catholics to "keep firm in spirit" and to "protect the local churches." We can not ignore, says the priest, the local Churches that are victims of "accidents, difficulty, discrimination, where there is no respect for basic human rights and social structure."