Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Thousands of Vietnamese, Catholics and non-Catholics, attended a Mass celebrated by Redemptorist priests in Saigon. Totalling some 2,000 people, they prayed together for peace and freedom of religion in their country. The latter was recently violated with the demolition of a Carmelite monastery in Hanoi and the imprisonment of a number of bloggers and activists. The mother of a young woman arrested for criticising "Chinese expansionism" spoke at the service. Meanwhile, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights complained about the internment of another blogger and activist in a mental institution in the capital.
In an official press statement, the Redemptorists in Ho Chi Minh City (ex Saigon) said that they would continue "to work for peace and justice in Vietnam." With this purpose in mind, they plan to celebrate a special Mass on the last Sunday of each month, as well as undertake other initiatives, which they "will present in coming days," the press release said.
In explaining the reasons for yesterday's ceremony, Fr Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai called on all the faithful "to pray for the victims of social injustice" and "serious violations" by local authorities, in particular in relation to Church properties and assets.
The Redemptorists made a earnest appeal for the release of activists, jailed for expressing their views online or in the streets, against Beijing's "imperialist policies".
During the function, Fr Joseph introduced Nguyen Thi Nhung to the congregation. A Buddhist, she is the mother of Nguyen Phuong Uyen, a Catholic student from Long An province who was arrested for expressing anti-China views online.
Speaking about her case, Fr Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, provincial superior of the Redemptorists, said: "If prison doors opened today, Phuong Uyen would be free to the joy of her parents, friends and all of us," he said. "As Catholics, we cannot but pray for the freedom of all human beings, as Jesus did," he added.
At the end of the service, both priests and faithful lighted candles to Our Lady of Mutual Help, and prayed for peace and justice in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights complained about the internment of Le Anh Hung, a blogger and activist, in a mental hospital in Hanoi.
On Thursday, security agents went to his place of work and took him away on a pretext, pushing him into a car.
Some friends tried to see him, but the hospital turned down their request, saying that his mother had asked for his internment, a claim she denies.