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Saturday, February 25, 2017
Vietnam: authorities ban New Year Mass
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¬†Catholics in Ia Grai, a district in Central Highlands of Vietnam, could not have Mass on the first day of the Lunar New Year, known as Tet, after Býi Minh Sen, the chairman of local People's Committee, threatened legal action against the clergy and faithful. The official said that Tat was not a Catholic festival and so they needed to apply for special permission for the Mass. In their petitions, Ia Grai Catholics stated that for Vietnamese Catholics, it is a tradition to dedicate the first days of the new year to Christ and Virgin Mary through public gatherings where the congregation can attend Eucharist or other worship services, receive sacraments, exchange new year greetings and receive blessings from their priests. Responding tothe petitions Sen insisted that has Tet was not a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, Mass on Tet would violates "the State law and Ordinance on Religion and Belief". In the ordinance No 34/UBND-DTTG, dated 4th February, Sen ordered security forces to arrest anyone gathering to celebrate Tet according to Catholic rite. The Church's normal activities, involving travel, holding meetings, developing new pastoral initiatives, are all subjected to approval by the civil authorities. According to the "State law and Ordinance on Religion and Belief", every year Catholic pastors need to submit to local authorities the list of Masses that they are going to celebrate during the coming year. Some of them may be disapproved. In these cases, the priest violates the law if he risks saying them - even with a smaller congregation. With the introduction to open market, the gradual opening to the West, especially to the United States, beginning with the lifting of the US trade embargo in February 1994, the normalization of relations in July 1995, and the accession into WTO in November 2006; there has been a number of positive developments in religious liberty. Also, the situation of the Church in Vietnam was improved due in good part to the persistent efforts of the Holy See to maintain an official dialogue with the authorities, including a more or less annual visit to Vietnam of a Vatican delegation. However, there can be no denying that religious freedom is still severely limited in today's Vietnam. Local governments are still pursuing policies of religious persecution for the ethnic minorities, especially the Montagnards in the Central Highlands, and the Thai, Hmong and Muong in the Northern Mountains. JB An Dang
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