08/26/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Thousands of Catholics in the streets in Hanoi in support of Redemptorists

by J.B. An Dang
Catholics lead a peaceful demonstration of solidarity in favour of the religious order’s demand to have their monastery land and Thai Ha parish back. The latter was illegally seized by the capital’s government. The archbishop urges the faithful to be “in communion” among themselves.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Thousands of Catholics took to the streets in Hanoi in support of Redemptorists and Thai Ha parishioners over a land dispute between the Redemptorist convent and the local parish on the one hand and local authorities on the other.

In a letter sent by Archbishop Joseph Ngo of Hanoi from the United States where he is on a visit, the prelate expressed his deep “communion” with the men religious and the parishioners whom he urges to continue praying and be “in communion” among themselves.

In such a spirit Catholics from Hanoi and other northern provinces gathered on Sunday in front of the disputed property (see photo).

In a letter issued also on Sunday to all Redemptorists Fr Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh renewed the charge that the local government had illegally seized monastery land, and that the religious possessed all the necessary papers and witnesses” to prove ownership.

The Redemptorist religious order purchased the disputed property in 1928, but most of the Redemptorists in Vietnam were jailed or deported after the Communist takeover in 1954. Fr Joseph Vu Ngoc Bich was left alone in charge of the 15 acres of land and the parish church.

Later, despite protests, the authorities slowly took the property piece by piece, leaving only about half an acre. In order to back their claim Hanoi authorities said that Father Vu had donated the land to the government.

However, “Fr Joseph Vu repeatedly said and wrote that he never donated any part of the property,” said the Redemptorist superior.

Citing Canon 1292 the latter stated that only the diocesan bishop can dispose of Church property.

“Fr Joseph Vu was only a local priest. He was neither the owner [of the land], nor had any authority to make such a decision.”

In last Sunday’s letter Fr Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh also referred to what happened on 19 August when thousands of Catholics by their sheer presence prevented security forces from destroying crucifixes and images of the Virgin that had been left in an area of the disputed land.

Lastly Father Nguyen urged all Redemptorists of Vietnam to be in solidarity with those of Hanoi, announcing a protest vigil at the Saigon Redemptorist monastery on 28 August.

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