.- Following continued government persecution of Catholics in Vietnam, the Redemptorist Superior General has appealed for prayers for the Redemptorists and other Catholics in the country.
Recent incidents have centered at Dong Chiem parish in the Archdiocese of Hanoi. There, government officials blew up a crucifix at a cemetery on Jan. 6. Officials have blockaded the area around the parish and parishioners have been subject to beatings and mass arrests.
Last week, 36-year-old Redemptorist Brother Anthony Nguyen Van Tang was brutally beaten by police near the parish. He was left unconscious in a pool of blood.
Fr. Michael Brehl, the recently elected Superior General of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, told Fides that the Redemptorists hope the Vietnamese government investigates the incidents and will “act with justice.”
Speaking from Rome on Sunday, Fr. Brehl reported that the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam has requested prayers.
“The situation is tense, not only for the Redemptorists but also for many lay people, especially those active in pastoral work. I assured all our fellow Redemptorists in Vietnam and all those for whom we work of our solidarity and especially our prayers. Let us not forget them in this time of need!”
The Superior General noted that the government has denied responsibility for the destruction on the crucifix, but this is disputed by the Vietnamese bishops, witnesses and some independent journalists.
“Our response is prayer,” Fr. Brehl said.
On Sunday a solemn prayer vigil was held at St. Joseph Cathedral in Hanoi. Thousands participated in the vigil, at which Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Chu Van Minh was the presider.
The faithful have prayed for Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, who has often been criticized by the government and has asked to resign.
Thousands of Catholics also attended a Sunday prayer vigil at the Redemptorist monastery in Ho Chi Minh City, Fides says. They prayed for the victims of violence for the faithful of Dong Chiem. They also prayed for the Vietnamese government and the entire nation, exhorting that peace, harmony, justice and truth prevail in the country.
Hundreds of police mingled among the congregation, Sr. Emily Nguyen of VietCatholic.net reported.
At the vigil Fr. Joseph Le Quang Uy addressed the police, saying, “If you wish to arrest me, you can do it right now. I am ready to go with you.”
He assured them that his congregation would not resist.
“Did you hear what our faithful are singing?” the priest asked the plainclothes police. “Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon. Did you hear them praying for any evils against you?”
The vigil proceeded without incident. Previously, police had publicly threatened the vigil with “extreme actions” should it continue as scheduled.
The government of Ho Chi Minh City has accused the priest of abusing his role in prayer vigils to “distort” the situation of Vietnam and to denounce human rights violations. The city charged that these actions undermine national unity and enable forces hostile to the Vietnamese government.
The Vietnamese Redemptorists’ provincial superior Fr. Vincent Pham Trung Thanh also celebrated a Mass on Sunday before more than 2,000 Catholics. Fides reports that he sought prayers for the end of the persecution against the Church and for the innocent faithful.
The Redemptorists have asked Hanoi authorities to lift the “siege” of the Church of Dong Chiem, to stop intimidation towards believers, to release those arbitrarily detained, to prosecute those who attacked Catholics, and to respect freedom of religion and the symbols of the Christian faith.
Catholics abroad have also turned their prayers to Vietnam, VietCatholic.net reports. On Jan. 20 a vigil held in Sydney attracted thousands and on Jan. 23 a Mass at Orange County Catholic Pastoral Center in California to pray for Dong Chiem.