09/17/2013, 00.00
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Vinh : Catholics say Mass and prayers against Vietnamese authorities’ calumnies

by J.B. An Dang
Bishops, priests and thousands of faithful attended the function in the sanctuary of St. Anthony. A celebration that "challenges" governmental bans and impositions on worship. Bishop of Vinh : " The authorities continue to spread false information." The Catholic community turns out in defense of the prelate .

Vinh (AsiaNews) - Bishops, priests and thousands of Vietnamese Catholics celebrated Mass "for peace and justice" in response to the calumnies of State TV and newspapers that are promoting a smear campaign against Msgr. Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and the diocese of Vinh . Yesterday, the retired bishop Msgr. Paul Marie Cao Dinh Thuyen concelebrated Mass with Msgr. Nguyen, strongly reaffirming support for the bishop and the entire Catholic community.

On September 15, the state television aired a 10-minute report, laying defamatory accusations against the diocese and the faithful . Msgr. Paul and his Auxiliary Bishop, Msgr. Peter Nguyen Van Vien, were charged with being "guilty of artfully fabricating" a legal issue - the defense of two parishioners in jail for months without charge - and turning it into a case of "religious persecution".

Mass yesterday (pictured) was attended by 200 priests and more than 3 thousand faithful , calling for " peace and justice " for the country and its citizens. The function was held at the Shrine of St. Anthony, a center of pilgrimage in the diocese of Vinh and not far from the place where the violent police crackdown occurred on September 4 . The celebration of the Mass itself is seen as an act of defiance against the "rules" laid down by the Vietnamese religious authorities, according to whom the local administration must approve "extraordinary celebrations".

At the end of the Mass the bishops and priests held a meeting to prepare a letter of response to the government's false accusations of the. " Yes, they have slandered us with false accusations. Once again, I'm very sad that the authorities continue to air false information in our age when people around the world are approaching the goal of clear, accurate information- said Msgr. Paul Nguyen Thai Hop.

The dispute is really over events linked to the parish in My yen, which is seeking the release of two parishioners who have been in jail since last June without even a formal accusation being made against them. The diocese of Vinh and its bishop intervened in defense of the imprisoned parishioners, requesting the release , and the entire community , legitimizing the protests . The support of the diocesan Catholic leadership has sparked the reaction of the local and central authorities , who have launched a smear campaign against Msgr. Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and threatened to intervene harshly to quell the protest.

For some time now, the Vietnamese government has been involved in a campaign of repression against bloggers, activists and dissidents seeking religious freedom, respect for civil rights, or the end of the one-party state. A petition has been launched for that purpose.  In 2013 alone, Hanoi has arrested more than 40 activists for crimes "against the state", a legal notion human rights groups consider too general and vague.  The Catholic Church has also been subjected to constraints and restrictions; its members, victims of persecution. In one case back in January, a Vietnamese court sentenced 14 people, including some Catholics, to prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, a ruling criticised forcefully by and human rights activists and movements.



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