Vietnam: Catholics in further prayer protests

 Hundreds of Ha Dong Catholics have been holding prayer vigils every night over the past week, seeking the return of their presbytery from the government. Located 40 km south-south-west of Hanoi, Ha Dong, with its population of 228,000 people, is the capital city of Ha Tay province. The protest began on Sunday, January 6 when the local government officials told parishioners that they would not return the confiscated presbytery of Ha Dong parish. The communist government seized it 30 years ago. Since then, it has been used as the People's Committee office of Ha Dong town. During the last twenty years, parishioners have repeatedly signed petitions to request the restitution of the building. However, their requests have gone unanswered. Last year, as the provincial Ha Dong town was given city status, the People's Committee office was moved to another location. Fr Joseph Nguyen Ngoc Hinh, vicar of the parish, made another attempt. This time he got an answer. But, "a ridiculous answer", said a parishioner. After months of waiting, the priest was told recently that in 1977, a parish leader of his parish offered the presbytery to the government. Fr. Joseph Nguyen argued back that a parishioner has no right to do so. Also, the parish leader mentioned above was a member of the Communist Party and instituted by the government. Ha Dong Catholics vow that prayer protests will be held every day in front of the building until the win justice. Many buildings that once belonged to the Church in Vietnam have been administered by the State on the grounds that they were needed for social purposes. Even when their purposes are no longer met, the buildings are seldom returned to their owners. An Dong

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