Vietnamese archbishop clashes with government over property seizures

By staff writers
September 10, 2008

Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Vietnam has been accused by the government there of breaking the law and causing disorder by supporting prayer vigils against the authorities' confiscation of Catholic Church property.

The archbishop has bee accused of inciting thousands of Catholics to take part in daily vigils, in defiance of the actions of the state.

The Vietnamese security forces have now threatened to disperse the crowds and to bring in the armed forces to carry out "extreme actions", reports J. B. An Dang writing on Independent Catholic News in the UK (

On 1 September the New Hanoi newspaper carried a report in which Lt General Nguyen Van Huong, vice-minister for public security in Vietnam, said that the protestors at Thai Ha were "belittling [our] laws, and disrupting public order".

Major-General Nguyen Duc Nhanh, director of the Hanoi Police Agency was quoted as saying: "The presence of priests where Catholics assemble to pray illegally, or to perform riot behaviours [sic], or to destroy state properties, is by itself an act of riot stimulation."

The protestors point out that their actions have been entirely peaceful and public spirited.

New Hanoi goes on to accuse Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of attempting to associate the dispute in Thai Ha with one at the former nunciature. It blames him for encouraging 82 priests in Hanoi to sign a letter declaring communion with a parish the state refuses to recognise.

In a Letter of Communion sent to the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam and the Superior of Thai Ha Monastery, dated 8 September 2008, Bishop Anthony Vu Huy Chuong of Hung Hoa gives his full to the churches' efforts to regain their land in Thai Hai.

"I have prayed," he writes, "for justice and the truth may be honored not only in Thai Ha but also in anywhere that people still have to suffer injustice and dishonesty."

The authorities in Vietnam are reported to have threatened arrest and imprisonment to people writing about the protest on the internet.

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