Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng yesterday met Archbishop Joseph Ngô Quang Kiêt to discuss the issue of Church property seized by the state. He wanted to personally see the thousands of Catholics who have been demonstrating since Christmas demanding local authorities restore a building belonging to the Apostolic delegate to its rightful owner, the Church. The building is currently used as a night club.
The talks between Mgr Kiet and PM Dũng lasted for about 15 minutes. At the end of the meeting demonstrators organised in prayer groups broke out in applause as the prime minister came out.
A 60-year-old man told AsiaNews that he “believed that God heard their prayers,” adding that “we place much hope in the prime minister who recently met with the Pope in the Vatican.”
“For this reason I believe the issue of Church property will be solved step by step on the basis of Vietnam’s laws,” he said.
A petition was presented to local authorities in support of the demand for the building to be returned to Church ownership. The latter is part of a complex that includes the Bishop’s Residence and the cathedral.
For her part a woman in her early forties said: “We are Catholics but at the same time we are Vietnamese citizens. The Church, too, has rights and duties.”
Some four to five thousand people took part in the prayer march demanding the return of Church property, including many nuns and parents of priests from Hanoi’s various parishes as well as some faithful from the archdiocese of Hồ Chí Minh City.
Another demonstrator quoted Hồ Chí Minh, founder and leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. “Uncle Ho said: ‘Let the people know, discuss and check anything local cadres do. This will help them avoid mistakes in their work or in their decisions involving people’s lives as well as policies on religion’.”