12/16/2008, 00.00
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Hanoi mayor wants to drive Redemptorists out of town

by J.B. An Dang
In a letter to Vietnam’s bishops and the order’s provincial superior Nguyen The Thao demands the Redemptorists be moved “out of the area of the capital.” Three months ago he wanted the archbishop out of the capital. For ordinary people, the trial against Thai Ha parishioners has turned them into heroes, with the authorities now facing the trial of public opinion.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Attacks by Vietnamese authorities against the Catholic Church seem to have no end. After seizing the land of the former apostolic delegation, property belonging to Thai Ha parish and to St Paul’s Monastery in Vinh Long and trying eight Thai ha parishioners, the authorities now want to throw the Redemptorists out of the capital.

In a letter to Mgr Peter Nguyen Van Nhon, president of the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops, and to Fr Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh, Redemptorist provincial superior, Hanoi People’s committee Chairman (mayor) Nguyen The Thao has demanded their removal.

The Redemptorists, who are responsible for Thai Ha parish (pictured a prayer vigil),  “must be transferred out of the area of the capital,” the chairman wrote in the letter dated 12 December because they are guilty of “smearing the system of justice in Vietnam” and “insulting and ridiculing the court.” The latter is trying eight Thai Ha parishioners in what he says is a “fair [trial] and conforming to the law”. By contrast, the Redemptorists have called it “a court of devils.”

Threatening legal actions Chairman Thao demanded Bishop Peter Nguyen and Fr Vincent Nguyen immediately transfer out of the area Fr Mathew Vu Khoi Phung, the superior of Hanoi Monastery; Fr Peter Nguyen Van Khai, Fr Joseph Nguyen Van That and Fr. John Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong.

Chairman Thai is not new to demanding religious authorities remove someone from Hanoi. Three months ago on 23 September, he asked the country’s Catholic bishops during their annual conference at Xuan Loc to consider and duly reprimand, in accordance with the Church’s discipline, Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet and Hanoi Redemptorists for, in his words, “inciting riots, falsely accusing the government, disrespecting the nation, breaking and ridiculing the law, and instigating others to violate it.”

In their response the bishops said that the religious involved had “not done anything against current Church Canon Law.”

For many Catholics in Hanoi, the mayor’s action is a sign that the local government is concerned over people’s reactions to the trial of the eight Thai Ha parishioners.

It seems the trial is turning against the authorities that instigated it. The courage shown by the defendants has become a symbol of defiance and made them heroes in the eyes of their fellow countrymen.

From being the accuser the government is turning into the accused for imposing on its citizens an unfair, immoral and illegal trial.

For others the problem lies in widespread corruption which has become an ingrained evil in the country. All three pieces of property seized from the Church are slated to become public parks after Catholics protested the decision by various local authorities to sell them to commercial interests; hence the vendetta.

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