04/27/2013, 00.00
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Trang Bom: Vietnamese authorities against priests and bishop united to the end single party rule

People's Committee launches smear campaigns and threats against diocesan clergy. They are charged with having promoted prelates’ reflections on the draft reform of Constitution. Frontal attack against bishops and priests, for fear that desire for change is growing among population.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews / EDA) - Authorities in Trang Bom district, Dong Nai province, in the south-east of Vietnam, have launched a harsh campaign against 28 priests of the Diocese of Xuan Loc They are being targeted by the People's Committee, on charges of giving prominence to the bishop's campaign in support of the reform of the 1992 Constitution for multiparty rule. The letter sent by the leaders of the local administration is just the latest episode in a long battle that sees the government pitted against the Catholic prelates, deployed in support of the people in the defense of basic rights. In recent weeks, Hanoi also intervened with a stern warning to the Episcopal Conference, under central government scrutiny for supporting the reform proposals "of the wrong content," dictated by an "opportunistic" and "hostile" logic.

At the request of Msgr. Dominique Nguyen Chu Trinh, the priests of the district of Trang Bom have organized a campaign to explain and publicize the prelates' open letter in support of the constitutional reform. It includes reforms aimed at radical change of Vietnamese policy and institutions in multiparty key.

In an attempt to prevent the initiative spreading further and to defend the current state apparatus, the district authorities have attacked the bishop and priests head on, distorting the facts and information provided by the episcopate. The smear campaign by the authorities speaks of public sermons, homilies, leaflets and billboards promoted by priests to spread the project of the prelates to undermine the foundations of Vietnam. Some even "invoked applause" within the churches, branded as "incorrect" behavior and contrary to norms.

The People's Committee of Trang Bom points the finger at the clergy, accused of "deviating from its role of shepherd" and of "overstepping the limits of mere consultation of the popular will," to create a real political campaign. Reiterating its "severe criticism" of the Catholic leadership, the authorities finally ask they withdraw all copies of the reflection elaborated by the bishops from circulation and halt its spread "in any form".

However, ecclesiastical sources add, "they avoid expressing an opinion" the document, confirming the validity of the reflections and insights it provides.

Backed by Catholic bishops, intellectuals and activists, the petition calls for a reform of the National Constitution of 1992, putting an end to the hegemony of a single communist party. The text signed and commented on by thousands of citizens was delivered on 2 February to the Vice-President of the Commission for constitutional reforms. Leading the "reformist" delegation - made up of 15 of the 72 first signatories of the text - the former Minister of Justice Nguyen Dinh Loc. At the same time, the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Conference of Vietnam has promoted a reflection (click here to read the document ) in which it reaffirmed that "sovereignty belongs to the people."


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