01/31/2008, 00.00
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A decalogue for the "prayer protests" of the Catholics in Hanoi

A series of principles of behaviour has been elaborated by the young people who are participating in the peaceful sit-in at the former building of the apostolic delegation. The newspaper of the communist party and the official news agency say the archbishop has been meeting with the leader of the Patriotic Front.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - A "decalogue" for the Catholics who are continuing their prayer vigils at the former site of the apostolic delegation, and two meetings between top-level representatives of the Vietnamese Patriotic Front - a group linked to the communist party - and the archbishop of Hanoi: there may be movement afoot in regard to the issue of the building complex claimed by the Church. The attacks from the national media continue - but not from the official agencies. 

Faithful Catholics continue to pray at the Toa-Kham-Su, the old building of the apostolic delegation, although the ultimatum from the police authorities to abandon the complex has passed.  Since December 23, the complex has been a meeting point for thousands of Catholics who are demanding to have the building back, which was seized by the state in 1959 and is now about to be sold for restaurants and nightclubs.  On the building grounds, priests, sisters, and laity have formed a circle around the statue of the Virgin Mary, where they have also placed a large crucifix.  Following the scuffles of a few days ago, the police have taken no further initiative, limiting themselves to sending a few patrols to check on what is happening. 

A group of young people among those present has elaborated and illustrated a series of proposals for the Catholic faithful.  It is a sort of decalogue, reported by Vietcatholic News, which ranges from "pray wherever we are" to "be present for prayers at Toa-Kham-Su", from " provide material and spiritual support to the faithful participating in the vigil" to "keep the area clean", from " introduce to others all websites which post updated information on the Toa-Kham-Su situation" to "show friends how to bypass firewalls and access the websites we want without any restrictions", from "bring camera (if possible) to record any symbolic event" to "write down things you observed, heard or thought of and send your writings to Catholic websites", from "serve as volunteer driver for friends and relatives who would like to join us at Toa-Kham-Su “ to "discuss with others the false and defamatory information made up by the state television network or by the newspapers". 

In regard to the media, although the sources in Vietnamese attack the "pretext" of the Church to obtain the return of the building, Nham Dam, an official organ of the communist party, has reported on a visit - on January 28 - from archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet to the president of the Patriotic Front, Huynh Dam. The occasion for the meeting is said to have been the exchange of good wishes for the lunar new year (the Tet), which begins on February 7. The newspaper then refers generically to the efforts of Catholics on behalf of humanitarian causes and the peaceful development of the capital, and to the Front's "appreciation" for their activities.

For its part, the VNA, the official Vietnamese News Agency, has reported on another visit - on January 30 - made to the archbishop by the vice president and secretary general of the Front, Vu Trong Kim. While the official explanation of this visit was also that of the new year greetings, the account says the communist leader also “affirmed that the Viet Nam Fatherland Front always opens its doors to all Catholic people who come with their concerns and pledged that the organisation will work with relevant authorities to address these concerns“.

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