08/10/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM

More protest vigils in the diocese of Vinh. Difficult glimmers of dialogue with the government

Emily Nguyen
A candlelight vigil throughout the 178 parishes of the diocese of Vinh to demand an end to violence against Catholics and the release of 3 faithful kept in prison. The government of Quang Binh invites representatives of the clergy to speak, but there are fears for the safety of the priests.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - On the evening of August 8 last in all the parishes of Vinh marches and prayer vigils were held. Throughout the 178 parishes, the vigil brought together some 500 thousand faithful. Carrying signs calling for religious freedom, the faithful asked for the return of Church property requisitioned by the government, the property seized from the homes of the faithful, the end of the anti-Catholic propaganda in government media and the release of 3 Catholics, arrested on July 20 last for having built a tent as a place of prayer in front of the ruins of the church of Tam Toa (see 21/07/2009 Beatings and arrests of priests and faithful in the historic church of Tam Toa).

Other dioceses have expressed solidarity with the faithful of Vinh, some of them - priests and lay people – were subjected to beating and violence by police and plainclothes thugs employed by police. The same evening, August 8, 3 thousand Catholics gathered in the parish of Thai Ha (Hanoi), the next day, in Ho Chi Minh City, 2500 people demonstrated in the Redemptorist Church.

There are rumours that the local government is gathering malcontents from the Communist Youth League and army veterans to launch a series of violent raids on Catholics. Meanwhile the press continues to accuse the faithful of offenses against the homeland and the disturbance of public order. In Quang Trach food sellers and suppliers have been ordered not to sell their products to the Catholics.

As the tension grows, the local government of Quang Binh has asked representatives from the diocese to go to Dong Hoi to discuss the Tam Toa incident.Fr. Anthony Pham Dinh Phung, secretary of the diocese, however, insists that the dialogue take place in the diocesan offices of Vinh, in order to ensure the safety of Catholic representatives.

In previous days, a priest from Vinh, Fr. Peter Nguyen The Binh, accompanied by the local vice-governor, was beaten into a coma (see Priest 28/07/2009 Priest beaten into a coma by police. Catholics Protest throughout Vietnam).

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