Vietnam: Catholics in largest protest since 1975

 In one of the largest demonstrations since the Communists came to power in 1975, 3000 Catholics protested at Saigon Redemptorist Monastery last night to show their solidarity with their Hanoi brothers and sisters. Many Catholics in Hanoi were wounded in a clash with police last night. More than 3000 Catholics in Saigon held a prayer vigil at Saigon Redemptorist Monastery to protest against the police raid at Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery on Thursday morning asking for the restitution of more than 60 thousand square metres of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery's grounds that have been seized illegally by the local government. 180 priests from various religious orders in Saigon and nearby provinces concelebrated Mass to pray for the Church in Vietnam and in particular for the faithful in Hanoi. Fr Vincent Nguyen Trung Thanh, the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam, asked the congregation to thank Gods for all the graces poured abundantly on them and even for the sufferings and the persecutions. He said: "Through events in Thai Ha, we understand the Gospel clearer. We stand clearer on the side of the poor, the weak, the marginal, the persecuted, and those suffering injustice. We see clearer the true face of a world dominated by lies, trickery, and tyranny". Hundreds of police were sent to the site to take photos and film with video cameras. Local Catholic sources in Hanoi report that at least four Catholics in Hanoi, including two elder women, were arrested yesterday. Hundreds of protestors are still camping on the disputed land in a peaceful protest. In an attempt to lure the protestors to violence, police grabbed a woman when she was praying at the site and took her away. In response, more than 100 protestors led by Redemptorists marched silently after the police to a station in Hanoi's Dong Da district where they staged a peaceful protest asking for the release of all detainees. At 7.35pm local time, when at least 500 Catholics of Thai Ha and nearby parishes were praying at the police station, anti-riot police were sent to the site to disperse the protestors with batons. Many were wounded during the clash with police and dozens were arrested. A Redemptorist brother, beaten heavily by at least six police men, is in a serious condition.

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