Hanoi (AsiaNews) - None of the 2,250 properties confiscated from the Vietnamese Church will be restored to their owners, and those "transmitted" by the state to "organizations or agencies, must be used effectively for the correct purpose, and not offend the feelings of religious followers," or they will be taken back and used for public purposes. The faithful will be severely punished if they demonstrate and create "social disorder." These are the measures of the new directive from Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung (N° 1940/CT-TTg), concerning "land and properties of religions," made public on January 6.
The disposition, which contains decidedly obscure norms, evidently takes its cue from the affairs, which it does not cite, of the former apostolic delegation and the parish of Thai Ha in Hanoi, and from the affair of convent of the Sisters of St. Paul in Vinh Long.
The directive states in the first place that the land confiscated by the state "before July 1, 1991, will be regulated according to Resolution 23/2003/QH11." The resolution, published on November 26, 2002, established that all of the land and property appropriated before July 1, 1991, in order to create the socialist regime in Vietnam, will not be given back to its owners. And all of the property of the Church belongs to this category. Confirmation of the 2003 norm eliminates any idea of restitution, at which the government itself had hinted.
One norm, decidedly obscure, after affirming the need to respect the purpose of this property, adds that "in the case in which conflict should arise after the religious group has accepted to grant or to offer its right of use over the land, it will be necessary to return to the dispositions of the law existing before the release of the certificate of the right to use of the land."
"The new directive has nothing new,” says Fr. Joseph Nguyen, from Hanoi. "Take the nunciature as an example," he told VietCatholic News. "It has been converted into a public park even there is already a huge park at the Hoan Kiem Lake ('Lake of the Returned Sword') just a few hundred meters away. Can anyone say that the nunciature is now used ‘effectively’ and ‘in a way that do not hurt the feelings of the faithful’?" "Obviously, the new directive does not try to solve issues relating to land and properties of religions that have been seized by Vietnam government," he concluded. "The directive and what the Vietnam PM said on the government’s web site tend to focus more on the threat to punish harshly any land protests from Catholics and other religions’ followers."