12/20/2008, 00.00
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Defaming sisters of Vinh Long to turn their orphanage into a hotel

by J.B. An Dang
Letter from the bishop: "How sad it is to see religious attacked who for 31 years have served the poor and the sick." The building had been requisitioned to turn it into a pediatric hospital, never realized.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - How sad it is to see sisters defamed in order to "justify" the appropriation of their orphanage, lovingly maintained for 31 years, and turn it into a place of amusement. The bishop of Vinh Long, Thomas Nguyen Van Tan, has written in these terms in a letter dated December 18 and addressed to the priests, religious, and lay people of his diocese.

The bishop is referring to what is happening to the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, a congregation of French origin, present in Vinh Long - 160 kilometers south of Ho Chi Minh City - since 1871. Until 1975, the sisters managed a large complex on To Thi Huynh street in the city, used as a convent and orphanage. In April of 1977, in order to "transform society toward socialism," the authorities instituted a policy of requisitioning land and buildings. On September 6, 1977, they requisitioned the convent and orphanage of the sisters, sending away the young people who were staying there, and even the handicapped children. According to the 1958 resolution of the People's Committee of Cuu Long, the province in which Vinh Long is located, the convent and orphanage were expropriated in order to be used as a "pediatric hospital and hospital for the province." This was never done.

But the sisters have never stopped asking for the restitution of their complex. Now, in order to justify the transformation of the former orphanage into a four-star hotel, the authorities are accusing the sisters of "training a generation of unfortunate youth to be an anti-revolution force to oppose the liberation of the country."

"It is so embittering," writes the bishop, referring to the accusation, "for the sisters, for you, and for me, too. How we can help not to feel painful to see the sisters being kicked out of their monastery empty-handed after 31 years serving the poor and the unfortunate? How sad it is to see the ruin of the monastery which our brothers and sisters had contributed countless efforts to build for more than a century. And how painful it is to see a place for worshipping God, for praying to Him, for spiritual training, and for providing charity services being converted into a place for entertaining."

"Maybe my voice today," the bishop further writes, "is just 'a voice in a desert' (Mt 3:3) as the voice of the power seems to have prevailed over the voice of justice, of conscience, especially in an era where material things supersede morality, charity and justice. However, I still have to raise my voice so that future generations won’t condemn us as those who have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, and a mouth but do not dare to speak."

"As we celebrate this Christmas," concludes Bishop Nguyen Van Tan, "let us earnestly implore our God and Savior grant unto the world His true peace, a peace in its fullness that is based on justice and morality."

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