Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The Vietnamese Buddhist Church asserts that is the real owner of the property where the former apostolic delegation of Hanoi stands. The government had given the Church a verbal promise to give it back, after 40 days of peaceful protests by Catholics in the capital.
In a letter sent to the prime minister on February 16, but made public only in recent days, the venerable Thích Trung Hậu, a representative of an organisation "approved" by the government in 1982, affirms that any arrangement for the former delegation building must have the agreement of his Church, the true owner of the property. The idea of Buddhist ownership was raised by Lê Quang Vịnh, the former head of the committee for religious affairs. In his opinion, the area of Buddhist ownership would also include the cathedral of St. Joseph, the archbishop's residence, and the major seminary.
With strong support, the venerable Hậu maintains that on the contested property there was once a pagoda called Báo Thiên, built in 1054. It was only in 1883 that "the French colonists seized it and gave it to the bishop".
In reality, Fr Joseph Nguyễn replies from Hanoi, "Except for the strong support from the government, the venerable Hậu has nothing to prove what he said. On the contrary, we do have all legal land titles". For the priest, this affair appears as "another stage in the difficult battle of the Catholics to get the building back".