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Government-backed mob ransacks Catholic chapel in Hanoi

.- A government-backed mob attacked and ransacked the chapel of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery on Saturday night in a continuation of the dispute between Catholics and the communist government over confiscated property.

“At 10 p.m. local time, on Saturday night, a delegate of the People’s Committee of Quang Trung precinct came to Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery asking for an urgent meeting with Redemptorists while hundreds of people attacked our Saint Gerardo Chapel,” reported Fr. Joseph Nguyen Van That, vice superior of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery.

The vice superior believed that the purpose of the meeting was a diversionary tactic to prevent the Redemptorists from rescuing the chapel.

“It was an organized night time attack of the government aiming at Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery,” he said.

Fr. Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai, the secretary of Vietnam’s Redemptorist Province, sent an urgent e-mail to Redemptorists in the nation, reporting the incident and asking for intense prayer for Redemptorists in Hanoi.

Condemning “the government’s organized attack at night time,” Fr. Joseph Dinh explained that Hanoi Redemptorists rang bells to summon nearby parishioners to rescue the monastery. Thousands of Catholics and nearby parish priests rushed to the site to stop the mob from destroying the chapel, J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

Hundreds of police with stun guns prevented Catholics from entering the chapel in what Fr. An Dang calls “an obvious attempt to buy time for the gang to ransack it.”

A parishioner reported that at one point a subgroup of the mob ransacking the chapel ran out to ask police if they could set it on fire.

They were instructed to “wait for an order from higher ranking officials.”

The Saint Gerardo Chapel was previously attacked by a government-backed gang on Sunday, September 21.

In that incident, the chapel was ransacked, its statues destroyed and its books torn to shreds.

Fr. Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, Superior of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, wrote to the People’s Committee of Hanoi City and local police agencies saying in the September attack the assailants “yelled, smashed everything on their way, threw stones into our monastery, and shattered the gate of Saint Gerardo Chapel.”

The latest attack prompted thousands of Catholics to gather at the monastery, known as Thai Ha parish, on Sunday afternoon. They rallied support for the Redemptorists, holding special services around the Archdiocese of Hanoi to pray for the parish.

News of the attack spread on Sunday when Catholics gathered at churches to celebrate the Feast of Vietnamese Martyrs.

“It was significant that the government struck Thai Ha parish right on the day Catholics in Vietnam celebrated the Feast of Vietnamese Martyrs,” Fr. Joseph Nguyen said. “This attack reminds people that since its very first outset, the seed of Faith in Vietnam soil was mixed with the abundant blood of the martyrs from all walks of life, from the courageous missionary clergy as well as the local clergy and the Christian people of Vietnam.”

“The Church in Vietnam today is not better or even worse than in the past,” he warned.

“The Catholic Church in Vietnam as a whole is now the subject of Vietnam government’s persecution by definition,” a student of Hanoi University said in reaction to the mob’s assault. “And this attack is a challenge to the conscience of the world," he asserted.

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