01/07/2009, 00.00
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Government must show it protects religions, says Vinh-Long bishop

by J.B. An Dang
Mgr Thomas Nguyen Van Tan has called on the authorities to reconsider their decision to tear down the convent and chapel that belong to the Sisters of Saint Paul of Chartres. The Sisters’ provincial superior talks about how state-run media misrepresented a meeting with the People’s Committee to exchange ideas when in fact it was a press conference.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Mgr Thomas Nguyen Van Tan, bishop of Vinh Long, wants the government to show that it protects religions. He made the request in a letter to the authorities with regards to the convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Saint Paul of Chartres, with whom he is “in total unity.”

“I have been living in Vinh-Long since September 1, 1953,” the bishop wrote. “At that time, next to the old Cathedral there was a school, a convent and a chapel belonging to the Sisters of St Paul Congregation. Now all has been reduced to a vacant piece of land. I ask the government to reconsider the decision to demolish the convent and the chapel in order to build a public square on the property where the convent used to be.”

In another letter to the authorities, Sister Huynh Thi Bich Ngoc, superior of the displaced nuns, described how things now stand. It was written following a decision by the local people’s Committee (City Hall) on 12 December to turn their home, first into a luxury hotel, then into a public square.

“The Congregation of Saint Paul was invited to a discussion to exchange ideas, but there was neither exchange, nor discussion,” she said in reference to the letter that invited the sisters to attend the People’s Committee meeting.

“Nguyen Van Dau, chairman of the People’s Committee, simply announced the latter’s decision to turn the monastery into a public square,” she said.

“Journalists from state media, like Vinh Long Newsmagazine editor in chief, as well as provincial radio and TV stations were there. They taped the event, and despite the fact that all the nuns present got up to strongly protest, state-run media reported that the nuns were happy for the decision and that their presence was proof of that.”

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