04/16/2008, 00.00
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Government announces intention to return land around La Vang shrine

by J.B. An Dang
The deputy chairman of the local People’s Committee makes the unexpected announcement. Almost all of the property is involved. Opinions differ as to why the decision was taken.

Hue (AsiaNews) – Our Lady of La Vang Shrine, the main religious Catholic shrine in Viet Nam, will be returned to its original owners. All the land that surrounds the basilica seized by the government in 1975 will thus revert to the Church. The decision was announced by Nguyen Duc Chinh, deputy chairman of the People’s Committee of Quang Tri, during a meeting (see photo) with Mgr Stephen Nguyen Nhu, archbishop of Hue, and Mgr Francis Le Van Hong, coadjutor bishop. The area affected covers 21.18 hectares (out of a total of 23.66 hectares originally expropriated) around the basilica.

Reactions to the announcement made by Communist authorities have been mixed. Some believe that the government wants to show its good will over the issue of seized Church properties. Others think the authorities were motivated by expected economic benefits that might accrue from an increased flow of people coming to the shrine for which the Church will have to build larger facilities. Lastly some cannot hide their scepticism, conscious that similar pledges were made and not respected in the past like the case of the former apostolic delegation in Hanoi.

La Vang Basilica is Viet Nam’s national Marian shrine. Every year it receives thousands of faithful, especially on 15 August. It was built to commemorate a vision of the Virgin Mary in 1798. Over the years it has been touched by conflict and typhoons. Powerful weapons fell all around it during the Vietnam War and yet the shrine is still there, to protect the people and the Church of Viet Nam.

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