02/11/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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The Catholics of Ho Chi Minh City manifest their solidarity with those of Hanoi

by J.B. An Dang
Thousands express their support for the peaceful protest in the capital, aimed at obtaining the restitution of territory confiscated from the parish of Thái Hà.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Thousands (in the photo) of Catholics and Ho Chi Minh City have expressed their solidarity with their fellow Catholics of Hanoi, who are peacefully demonstrating to obtain from the public authorities the return of property to the parish of Thái Hà.

As in Hanoi, and in conjunction with demonstrations in the capital, the Catholics of Ho Chi Minh City took part in a Mass celebrated on February 6 at the Redemptorists parish for the beginning of the lunar new year (the Tet), at the end of which prayers for justice to be done in Hanoi were offered.

Many then gathered around the display cases where the church bulletins are posted, to see the images and articles on the events in Hanoi, of which the highly controlled national media have reported nothing, criticising instead the archbishop of the capital,  Joseph Ngô Quang Kiệt.

The situation is analogous to the one that has seen the diocese of Hanoi ask for the restitution of the building of the former apostolic delegation. The land in Thái Hà that is asked be returned was bought by the Redemptorists in 1928. The church, convent, and seminary were built on the 60,000 square metres of the property. In 1954, with the communists' rise to power and the division of Vietnam, the religious of Thái Hà were imprisoned or deported. The 60,000 square metres of property were reduced to 2,700.

Since then, multiple petitions have been advanced to ask for the return of the land, on which a hospital has been built, while some of it has been granted to state companies and members of the government. The most recent case, from the beginning of the year, was the granting of part of the property to the Chiến Thắng packaging company, which has begun to build there. The response to the parishioners has been the sending of soldiers to permit construction to continue.

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