09/24/2008, 00.00
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Communist party attacks archbishop of Hanoi

Long, accusing articles in the party's newspaper, while the mayor of the capital sends "warnings" to the prelate, to the superior of the Redemptorists, and to three other priests. Announcement that Thai Ha will also become a public park, like the former apostolic delegation.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - A frontal attack by the Vietnamese Communist Party against the archbishop of Hanoi, Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet. The "popular committees" and "citizens" are asking that he be punished harshly, while the people's committee of Hanoi has sent him a "warning". The president of the committee has adopted a similar strategy toward the superior of the Redemptorists of Thai Ha, Fr Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, and three other priests. It is a vaguely illegal initiative, since it is up to the judicial authorities but has been taken by the mayor.

The same committee has also decided that the contested land of the parish of Thai Ha will become a public park. Strangely, the purpose is identical - and again motivated by "public interest" - to that just indicated for the complex of the former apostolic delegation. Until a few days ago, the same committee was defending its decision to grant the land to the Chien Thang Garment Joint Stock Company, while the intention was to build a Chinese restaurant in the complex of the former apostolic delegation.

Nhan Dan, the newspaper of the communist party, after months of silence over the two properties claimed by the Church, began dedicating extensive articles to the question a few days ago. The stance is always the same: the archbishop, "some priests" and "some Catholics" are breaking the law and instigating others to violate it; their claims are unjustified; the state protects religious freedom, but cannot tolerate illegal behavior.

Today the newspaper, in a long article, reports the opinions in favor of the creation of a public park and library on the grounds of the former apostolic delegation, expressed by four people from the neighborhood. At the same time, they ask for the "severe punishment" of those who have broken the law, and especially the archbishop: "actions that violate the law must be punished", "taking action against the violations of the law on the part of Kiet", "Ngo Quang Kiet gives Catholics a bad name". This is followed by a long reconstruction of the affair. With a few omissions - like the attack by a group of about 100 thugs in Thai Ha, in plain sight of 500 policemen; the declaration in the name of the prime minister that the "use" of the former delegation would be granted to the Church; the complete lack of documents proving the claimed donation of the land of Thai Ha to the state. There has also been manipulation of the archbishop's words, and he has been accused of providing "distorted" information to national and international websites.

The communist party, in short, seems to have decided to throw its weight behind the stance of anti-Catholic repression taken by the municipality of Hanoi, which may have been frustrated at seeing interesting economic uses of the property in question pass by (the complex of the former delegation is in the downtown section of the capital). So far, the government has not taken any official position, but previously it seemed interested in pursuing dialogue with the Catholic Church.

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See also
Prayer vigil in Ho Chi Minh City for parishioners of Thai Ha
Hanoi police threaten Redemptorists and their supporters
In Hanoi, stance of repression against Catholics seems to have won
New directive from Hanoi on Church property: nothing will be given back
Archbishop denounces "numerous obstacles" in dialogue with Hanoi authorities


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