12/19/2008, 00.00
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Redemptorist superior says no to transferring the members of his order out of Hanoi

by J.B. An Dang
The capital’s mayor had requested the transfer. In Ho Chi Minh City, the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul are back meeting in front of what was the daycare centre they used to run, which the authorities now want to turn into a hotel with night club.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Fr Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh, Redemptorist provincial superior of Vietnam, said no to Nguyen The Thao, chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee (City Hall) who asked him transfer the Redemptorists out of the capital after he accused them of contempt for the law and the state in the Thai Ha parish land affair.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, the clergyman in response to a question said that he did not expect the Church-state conflict to escalate or to see more government attacks. “The Church-state relation depends on many factors. The way the government treats people, its religion policy, the land law . . . . There are a lot” of them, he explained. Instead he said he was hopeful that peaceful dialogue was still possible and that government officials would exert self-restraint.

Fr John Nguyen, also a Redemptorist, seems more sanguine about that possibility. “The Church needs to prepare for more persecutions,” he warned. “Reading carefully the letter [Chairman] Thao sent to Vietnam’s bishops and Father Vincent, one can see that Thao, himself, did not actually expect the transfer [to happen] as he had stated. He expects and truly wants the Church leaders to say no.” in fact, “the tone of the letter was so hostile, and so demanding” so as to indicate that what “Thao really wants is a good excuse” to apply “coercive administrative measures.”

What is happening to the old house of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent De Paul in Ho Chi Minh City is further evidence of what has happened in Hanoi to the former apostolic delegation compound and to the property held by Thai Ha parish as well as to the church of An Bang in Vinh Long.

In the former South Vietnamese capital of Saigon the authorities decided to start construction work on the nuns’ former house. The building, which is located on Nguyen Thi Dieu Street, had been their property since 1959 when the French Red Cross gave it to them. Since then until 1975 the nuns used it to run a daycare centre.

After the Communists came to power the archdiocese of Saigon and the Order agreed to let the local government use the facility as a kindergarten.

In 1997 whilst the Sisters continued to demand the return of the building the authorities claimed title to it because of lack ownership. It was later rented out and turned into a dancing hall. A Police raid in 2007 showed that it had been turned into a whorehouse and was thus shut down.

The nuns have never stopped demanding the return of the building, but in November 2007 title to the property was further transferred, this time to the Bureau of Railroad System Management which began tearing it down to build a hotel and night club in its place.

Since then the archdiocese joined the nuns in requesting a review of the decision. At the same time tens of nuns, along with groups of students, have begun to meet in front of the old kindergarten (pictured).

In June a new decree by Ho Chi Minh City’s People’s Committee transferred the property to the city’s Third District, and still the Sisters have refused to give up.

Because a Vatican delegation was visiting Vietnam at the time, the authorities in order to mollify the protesters agreed to reconsider the nuns’ request in accordance with the law, only to go back on their own promise.  For this reason, since Monday the Sisters have been gathering again in front of what remains of their house.

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