Vietnam: bishop condemns demolition of Catholic monastery

Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan

Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan

Vietnamese authorities have begun demolishing a Congregation of St Paul of Chartres  monastery in Vinh Long, and  announced plans to turn the land into a public square.

In a letter to priests, religious, and lay people in his diocese on 28 October,  Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan of Vinh Long,  has strongly condemned the project.

Bishop Thomas said the local government had aggressively started the demolition work completely disregarding protests by the diocese and the Congregation of St Paul of Chartres who own the land.

The bishop said local authorities had apparently not informed him of the decision to pull down the buildings. He only learned about the fate of the monastery from a local newspaper.

Bishop Thomas said the incident highlighted the ongoing injustice his diocese has been suffering since 7 September, 1977 a "disastrous day for the Diocese of Vinh Long" when the local authorities mobilized its armed forces to raid the Cathedral, the Major Seminary and the Holy Cross College of Vinh Long diocese. All the clergy and church staff, including  Bishop Nguyen Van Tan were arrested.

Some of the clergy were jailed which others were transferred to different parts of the country, after they were denounced for "training youth to be an anti-revolution force to oppose the liberation of the country".

While the government has at times appeared to relax its oppressive treatment of Christians, in fact Bishop Thmas said nothing had changed. Vietnam follows the Communist system of land ownership. All land belongs to the people and is managed by the State on behalf of the people.

The bishop said the action was "so embittering" for the sisters, himself, and all Catholics. "It's so sad to see a place for worshipping God, for praying to Him, for spiritual training, and for providing charity services being converted into a place for entertainment," he said.

As the Month for the Holy Souls is approaching, the prelate said he also felt concerned seeing the Catholic cemetery of the diocese had been illegally seized and demolished for a public park.

During the Month for the Holy Souls, Bishop Thomas Nguyen  has asked his faithful to pray more intensively for holy souls and also for the end of the unjust treatment they are receiving.


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