Vietnamese Bishops join mass prayer protests

 In a clear demonstration of solidarity, The Bishops of Hai Phong and Thai Binh visited Thai Ha and joined more than 6,000 Catholics demonstrating for the return of confiscated church property on Friday.

The Bishops of Lang Son and Phat Diem arrived on Saturday to take part.

On Friday, Bishop Joseph Vu Van Thien, from Hai Phong Diocese, travelled 100 km to Hanoi to give his support to protestors. He was accompanied by hundreds of Catholics, and dozens of priests and religious of his diocese.

"In these days," said Bishop Joseph Vu leading a procession to the site, "media coverages have bewildered, and confused Catholics and non-Catholics. There have been so many news reports defaming the reputation and dignity of Catholics. Let us pray so that everybody knows how to respect the truth and defend justice."

On the same day, more than 3, 000 Catholics braving cold rain at Thai Ha, applauded Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang who had travelled 110 km from his Thai Binh Diocese to join protestors. After a short prayer serviceBishop Francis said: "I gave you a rosary that was blessed by the Pope himself in the hope that our Mother of Perpetual Help will save you from dangers and chaos."

Addressing police officials who were in duty at the site, he said: "For non-Catholics and non-believers, I also wish you good help and peace". His blessings were welcomed by many police men.

Eighty two Catholic priests in Hanoi also gave their full support to Thai Ha parish. In a letter to the government, they expressed their "extreme upset" to the way it has handled the dispute. "The issue in its nature is only a civil dispute between Thai Ha parish and the Chien Thang Sewing Company, how come this government mobilized the whole system of media and even its armed force to assault the parish?" the letter asked.

The letter requested that the government "not to criminalize such dispute of a civil nature. Stop summoning and arresting parishioners; not to politicize such internal dispute not to take security measures of violent nature in resolving the parishioners' legitimate demand".

Furthermore, the government "must not broadcast news that is one-way, distortional, defaming, insulting to the priests, brothers and parishioners and immediately investigate and prosecute those individuals and organizations who had savagely assaulted the parishioners while they were praying peacefully not to terrorize or apply discriminating or prejudice treatment on Catholic students and public servants".

On Saturday, more than six thousand Catholics braved cold rain to attend the largest prayer protest so far at Thai Ha, Hanoi. NUmbers would have been even greater if trhe police hadn't banned protestors from Phat Diem and Thai Nguyen provinces from attending.

Two more bishops: Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan, from Lang Son Diocese, in far northern Vietnam, 154km from Hanoi and, Bishop Joseph Nguyen Van Yen of Phat Diem joined the protest on Saturday. Bishop Joseph Dang said: "I feel very emotional to be with you here. To witness the way you express your desires for values of faith, justice and peace." Bishop Joseph Dang is the youngest bishop in Vietnam, ordained to Bishop on December last year.

Bishop Joseph Nguyen Van Yen of Phat Diem, whose most followers were barred to travel into the capital, presided a Mass for protestors with more than 20 priests. "We are here from many regions of the country to pray with our Mother of Perpetual Help," said Bishop Joseph Nguyen in his sermon, "to be in communion and in solidarity with you in this difficult time. We are here to pray for the truth and justice."

As the influx of protestors at Thai Ha has swelled rapidly, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi warned: "the situation will get more complicated".

Share this story