Vietnam: authorities force Catholics to walk 30km to special Mass

Thousands of Catholics had to walk up to 30km to Hanoi, after police forced their coach drivers taking them to Golden Jubilee celebrations at the Thai Ha Redemptorist parish, to drop them by the roadside.

People were traveling from the diocese of Thai Binh, 110km south-east of the capital when they were stopped by Hanoi police, and their bus drivers were forced to return to their departure point, Viet Catholic reports.

They had intended to travel to Thai Ha last Friday, for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the establishment of the Redemptorist Monastery in Hanoi.

However, police in their home towns applied various measures to deter Catholics from leaving for the capital, citing security reasons.

In the most populated Catholic areas such as Cam Chau, Chau Nhai, and Bong Tien, police threatened bus rental agencies not to allow Catholics to rent their buses. "Police made diligent efforts to prevent our leaving. They confiscated all legal documents necessary for bus rental agencies to rent out their vehicles to customers," said the pastor of Bong Tien parish.

Pilgrims reported that on the road to Hanoi via Nam Dinh, police had set up a dozen of checkpoints where hundreds of police searched all buses leaving the province for people with rosary beads or any signs showing their Catholic identity, and forced them to go back. During Friday, at least 20 buses packed with pilgrims had been forced to return to Thai Binh. In a threatening tactic, driver licenses of these buses' drivers were confiscated and only returned to them on Monday.

The pilgrims, however, were able to sneak out of their home village by 10pm Friday night, and traveled to Hanoi by another road via Hung Yen. The alternate route was under less police patrolling, but it cost the pilgrims an extra 60km trek to get to their destination.

Pilgrims from the Thai Thuy district included 16 female musicians who had been dumped at a site 16 kilometres from Thai Ha.

Being alone in an open field with all the musical instruments and equipments was not enough to deter them from joining the rest of the Catholic community in Hanoi for the event. They picked up their equipment and were walking when strangers and fellow Catholics from nearby parishes sent three taxi cabs to transport them to Thai Ha at around 3am, in time for their music to be enjoyed by many at the opening Mass.

Rumours suggest the local police are waiting to confiscate the band's musical instruments when they return home.

Police in Thai Binh province accused the pilgrims of traveling to Thai Ha to join a protest against the vilifying campaign against Redemptorists by state owned media.

But Viet Catholic says the pilgrimage was planned months ago soon after a Holy See's decree granting Redemptorists to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Redemptorists Monastery in Hanoi.

Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh Diocese rejected an accusation from police accusing him as one of the organisers with a political motive behind the pilgrimage. Bishop Nguyen said that he would be filing a complaint against the Tien Hai district police.

Source: Viet Catholic

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