02/29/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Underground Buddhists support right of Hanoi Catholics over nunciature building

by J.B. An Dang
A representative of the outlawed Unified Buddhist Church contests the assertions of government-approved Buddhists who are claiming ownership of the entire zone, including the cathedral and the archbishop's residence. It's a claim advanced to beat back the promise to give the Catholics use of the complex.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) - which is underground, in that it is outlawed by the government in favour of the Buddhist Church of Vietnam (VBD) - have expressed their support for the request of the capital's Catholics in regard to the restitution of the complex of the former apostolic delegation.  The venerable Thích Không Tánh of the UBVC, in particular, in an interview with the BBC, has contested the assertion of the pro-government VBD that it is the true owner of the complex that includes the former delegation, the archbishop's residence, and the cathedral of Saint Joseph.

"Approved" by the government in 1982 - after the Unified Buddhist Church was outlawed the year before - the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, in a letter sent on February 16 to the prime minister, maintained that in 1054 the Báo Thiên pagoda stood on the site, and that it was only in 1883 that the French colonists had given the land to the Catholics.  The move clearly appears to be inspired by the government circles that are trying to renege on the promise made to the Catholics at the beginning of February, to put an end to forty days of peaceful protests that began last December, for the restitution of the former apostolic delegation.

"The Catholic Church", says Thích Không Tánh, who spent 15 years in prison and is a representative of a Church that claims the support of 80 percent of Vietnamese Buddhists, "had legally owned the land before the VBD was established, and even before the birth of Thích Trung Hau", the leader of the government-approved Buddhists.

In must be added that in 2001, a state publication found that the pagoda of Báo Thiên had been destroyed in 1426, and that it stood five kilometres to the north of the apostolic delegation.

In Hanoi, Fr Joseph Nguyễn emphasises that "some government officials have already criticised those who involve in the letter of Thích Trung Hậu raising the concern that this development may force Catholics to cooperate with the Unified Buddhist Church".

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