Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The situation of the Catholic Church in Vietnam shows no signs of improving, six months after the resignation of the Archbishop of Hanoi, Joseph Ngo Kiet, which removed the person whom the government claimed to be the obstacle to the normalization of relations, even with the Vatican.
Indeed, after the Con Dau affair and the sentencing of six Catholics; the authorities seem to be stepping up their campaign with the arrest of the defence lawyer and ban on a bishop to say Mass in his diocese. In this context the governments "patriotic Catholics” are being mobilised. Officially called the "Committee for Solidarity of Vietnamese Catholics," the group is the latest edition of the "Liaison Committee of Patriotic Catholics and lovers of peace," created - with disastrous results - by the Communist Party in 1955 in order to create a model on the Chinese Patriotic Church.
However, supported by government, the Committee - as it reveals on its website – was addressed by the Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan, who urged priests and lay people who belong to the group to "eliminate the differences in the relations between state and Church "and" organize a 'good citizens' campaign' among Catholics, especially during the upcoming Christmas season.
The phrase "a good Catholic is a good citizen" is taken from the June 27, 2009 speech of Benedict XVI to the bishops of Vietnam, on the occasion of their ad Limina visit. Removed from its context, it is understood and used by state media to demand complete and unconditional submission to civil authorities from Catholics.
“From the government’s perspectives,” Fr. Joseph Nguyen in Hanoi explained, “good citizens are understood as those who would blindly follow its instructions, no matter right or wrong, just or unjust; who would be willing to kill their unborn children to conform to its harsh restrictive population policies, who would be ready to donate their church and their land to the Party. No Christian can urge others to do so, none at all, let alone priests”
It seems, indeed, that at the recent meeting of the Vietnamese Bishops Government (4-8 October), there was pressure from the Party for the final document to included this sentence. But the bishops refused. Which may explain why this time the tradition of the bishops travelling to Hanoi to meet with Prime Minister at the end of each meeting of the Episcopal Conference, first established in 1975, was interrupted.
Nham, who is a member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, also told the "patriotics" that the prime minister, Nguyen Minh Triet, would meet with Catholic representatives to discuss "matters of common interest." Triet's involvement highlights the fact that the relationship between church and state tense, after a series of disputes over land, leading to real persecution in Tam Toa (Quang Binh), Dong Chiem (Hanoi) and Con Dau (Da Nang).
The most recent episode is told by the Bishop of Kontum, Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, in a pastoral letter dated November 21. He reports that a group of security agents kept him "in custody" for hours, hindering his pastoral visit to Lang Son The bishop added that on November 7, when he went to celebrate Mass in the homes of some villages in the rural area of Kon Chro, all owners of the houses were subsequently arrested and subjected to lengthy interrogations. In one case, he himself was threatened by communist leaders in front of his parishioners. "If persist in coming to celebrate Mass for these people, you will be arrested and put in prison."