Vinh (AsiaNews) - The Bishop of Vinh, Paul Mary Cao Dinh Thuyen, has once again expressed strong solidarity with the faithful of the parish of Tam Toa, where for weeks violence against Catholics and priests has been perpetrated by police and thugs under their command. Speaking during ceremonies for the rite of confirmation, the prelate stressed that the faithful of his diocese endure many difficulties because of prejudice and discrimination by local authorities and asked all Catholics to pray so that the faithful of Tam Toa "can have freedom of religion and peace."
The incident began last July 20 when police in the province of Quang Binh launched a surprise attack against a defenceless group of parishioners of Tam Toa. The Catholics were building a tent to use as a temporary chapel for their liturgical services. The attack resulted in hundreds of wounded and dozens of people were arrested, taken away in police vans and detained (see 21/07/2009 Beatings and arrests of priests and faithful in the historic church of Tam Toa). In the weeks following two Catholic priests were reduced to near death at the hands of plainclothes police and thugs, paid by the government, who also attacked several people in the streets of the city of Dong Hoi just for wearing Christian symbols, even robbing their homes (28 / 07/2009 Priest beaten into a coma by police. Catholics Protest throughout Vietnam).
The bishop praised his people because they have proven to be "people of God."
"Many people have felt united with parishioners of Tam Toa, when they were beaten, imprisoned unjustly, suffered the illegal seizure of their property, or were seriously injured”. Msgr. Cao Dinh Thuyen also stressed that Catholics never resorted to violence, showing that they are "good Catholics and good citizens."
In recent weeks, on several occasions at least 500 thousand faithful of the diocese gathered in different deaneries to pray for their persecuted brothers and sisters and demand the release of imprisoned Catholics.
Meanwhile state media after accusing the Catholics of Vinh of not being patriotic and of going against the country, continue to accuse the faithful of not following Benedict XVI’s directives to Vietnamese bishops. In his speech during their ad Limina visit, the pope stressed that priests should deepen their spiritual life and that the laity must testify honesty, love and dialogue. Even a courtesy visit by Thoai Dang Khanh, Vietnamese Ambassador to Italy, with the new Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop. Balestrero, has been publicised in Vietnam as Vatican support of the government and a rejection of the protests of the Catholics.