11/17/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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New attack on parish of Thai Ha

by J.B. An Dang
An official of the people's committe tries to keep the Redemptorists occupied, while members of party organizations attack the chapel of Saint Gerardo. Summoned by bells, phone calls, and e-mails, hundreds of faithful come, and the attackers leave. The operation raises troubling questions.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Disturbing questions are being raised by the attack carried out Saturday night by a group of communist party activists on the chapel of St. Gerardo, on the property of the parish of Thai Ha. Similar to the one carried out on September 21, against the same target, it saw the participation of a delegate of the people's committee of Quang Trung (the local administration), while police and security forces looked on passively at the sacking of the chapel, which did not have serious consequences only because of the immediate arrival of faithful from Thai Ha and other parishes.

Fr. Joseph Nguyen Van That, vice superior of the Redemptorist convent, who also takes care of the parish, says that "At 10 pm local time, on Saturday night, a delegate of the people's committee of Quang Trung precinct came to Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery asking for an urgent meeting with Redemptorists, while hundreds of people attacked our Saint Gerardo Chapel."

There were police officers, members of a women's association, and young people of the party. They began shouting, throwing stones at the church, trying to provoke the priests and faithful present to a fight. Catholics were called to the scene by church bells, but also by telephone calls and e-mails sent to the parishes of Hanoi. At 11 o'clock, a fairly significant number of faithful were on the scene, and without responding to the provocations, they tried to enter the chapel.

The officers, who did not intervene to stop the attack, tried (in the photo) to stop the faithful from entering the church. One parishioner says that at a certain point, a group that was participating in the attack asked the police if they could set it on fire. They were instructed to “wait for an order from higher ranking officials."

At 11:30, the growing number of faithful on the site forced the attackers to leave.

Eglises d’Asie reports that inhabitants of the neighborhood say that beginning in the afternoon, while the church was celebrating the feast of the Vietnamese martyrs, the young communists had taken up position to prepare the operation. The same thing was happening at the same time in security offices of the neighborhood.

A letter denouncing the incident has been addressed by Fr. Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, the superior of the monastery, to the people's committee of Hanoi and to the police of Hanoi and of the district of Dong Da.

Catholics are concerned over the reasons for the attack, which came after the conclusion desired by the authorities - meaning with rejection - of the request by the Redemptorists for the restitution of the parish land. Some think it is retaliation - the land that was given to a clothing company has been turned into a public park - and are afraid of further aggression against the monastery, parish, and chapel.

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