12/15/2008, 00.00
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Now it is Vinh Long’s turn as park is set to replace monastery

by J.B. An Dang
Like in the cases of the ex apostolic delegation compound and Thai Ha parish land, local authorities plan to turn Church property into a park after their attempt to sell it to private interests generates protests.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – After the former apostolic delegation compound and parish land in Thai Ha, the St Paul Monastery of the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul (pictured) is slated for demolition to give way to a public park. Ostensibly Vietnamese authorities appear to have adopted a policy of turning Church property into green spaces. Or perhaps it is a vendetta against local Catholics whose protests prevented them from selling the land to private interests.

In a press conference last Friday Vinh Long Provincial people’s Committee announced that the monastery would be torn down. As is often the case under such circumstances the announcement was accompanied by traditional charges against the sisters, namely of “taking advantage of religious freedom to inspire protests against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and hence damage the unity of the people.”

The government attack came following protests by the women religious when they found out that local authorities were planning to turn the monastery into a five-star hotel.

In a letter dated 18 May 2008 sent to priests, men and women religious and the laity, Mgr Thomas Nguyen Van Tan, bishop of Vinh Long, went over the history of the controversy.

“7 September 1977 was a day of disaster for the Diocese of Vinh Long,” the bishop wrote.

“On that day local authorities mobilised their security forces to blockade and raid Holy Cross College, St. Paul monastery, and the Major Seminary. They then proceeded to seize the properties and arrest those in charge of the facility. I myself was among those arrested.”

“The representatives of the Provincial Superior of the Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul and the Bishop’s Office repeatedly sent petitions to local and central governments, but never got an answer.”

“Recently, Vinh Long provincial authorities issued a permit for a hotel to be built on the 10,235 m2 of land owned by the Sisters of Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul,” the letter said.

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