Tensions between the Catholic Church and government are growing after the local government announced plans to build a hotel on land seized shortly after the Vietnam Wqar. Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan of Vinh Long diocese, 135 km South West of Saigon, has sent a letter to priests, religious, and lay people of his diocese denouncing the decision to pull down the monastery of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. In the letter read in all Masses on the last weekend, Bishop Nguyen Van Tan says that September 7, 1977 was "a day of disaster" for the diocese of Vinh Long. On that day, "the local authorities mobilized its armed force to blockade and raid on Holy Cross College.., St. Paul Monastery, and the Major Seminary", and arrested all those who were in charge of the premises. Bishop Thomas was among the detainees. Since then, the government has kept the properties, using them for various purposes. Last month, local authorities announced a project to build a hotel on the land of 10,235 m2 of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. The Sisters have staged protests at the site, and a group of priests has voiced their protest at the office of the Fatherland Front. Despite all this, the government has not changed its mind. Rather, it "has summoned residents in the town to meetings in which they vow to take strong actions against those who dare to prevent the construction", the letter says. Vinh Long is a province located in the Mekong River Delta of southern Vietnam. Its capital is Vinh Long. Its population is 1,023,400 living on the land of 1,475 km. Its unemployment rate in recent years stays persistently at more than 34%. The text of the letter follows. Vinh Long, 18 of May 2008 To priests, religious, and lay people of Vinh Long diocese, Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I am writing this letter in response to your great concerns relating to the Major Seminary on Nguyen Hue street; and to the solicitude of Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul for their monastery on To Thi Huynh street (previously known as Nguyen Truong To). The September 7, 1977 can be seen as a day of disaster for the diocese of Vinh Long. On that day, the local authorities mobilized its armed force to blockade and raid on Holy Cross College on Pham Thai Buong street (formerly known as Khuu Van Ba), St. Paul monastery, and the Major Seminary. Then, they seized all these properties and arrested those who were in charge of the premises. I myself was among the detainees. Representatives of the Provincial Superior of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul and the Bishop office have repeatedly sent petitions to local and central governments. However, these petitions have gone unanswered. Recently, local government of Vinh Long province has issued a decree to build a hotel on the land of 10,235 m2 of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. Despite the protest of priests at the office of the Fatherland Front, the government has summoned residents in the town to meetings in which they vow to take strong actions against those who dare to prevent the construction. It is a great suffering of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul who have been in Vinh Long since 1871 and have been serving peoples in the provinces of Ben Tre, Tra Vinh and Vinh Long. It is also a great suffering of the entire diocese. We cannot consent with the decision imposed unjustly by those who have power in their hand, neither we can stay silent in the face of this outrage. Being silent means complicity and a compromise with injustice. I am convinced that you will be united with each other, and be persistent for justice. In the spirit of solidarity, I ask you to pray earnestly for the diocese and Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul so that we soon overcome these difficulties. Every day, please be united in prayer with us by singing three Hail Mary and the Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi. In Christ, + Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan Bishop of Vinh Long Translated from Vietnamese by J.B. An Dang
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