The Archdiocese of Hanoi has condemned a recent police attack on Catholic parishioners and the destruction of a cemetery crucifix by the city police as a “sacrilege.”
“Blowing up the crucifix in the cemetery of Dong Chiem Parish with explosives is the most severe form of sacrilege. It's insults the Catholic faith,” said Fr. John Le Trong Cung, Vice Chancellor of the Hanoi Archbishopric in a statement on Friday.
An estimated 600 to 1000 heavily armed police officers and a large number of trained dogs were deployed to the area to protect the army engineering unit assigned to destroy the stone crucifix. The troops and police reportedly claimed they were acting on a policy that requires all religious symbols to be inside a religious premise, J.B. An Dang told CNA.
“Facing such an extreme act of sacrilege, parishioners of Dong Chiem begged the police to stop destroying their crucifix. But in response they were shot at close range with tear gas canisters. Around a dozen brutally beaten, two of them were seriously injured and hospitalized,” claimed Fr. John Le.
According to J.B. An Dang, the two seriously injured victims were transported by police after the attack to a clinic where they received no medical attention. It was only until later in the day when the priests and parishioners found them and brought them to another hospital that they received proper care.
“We are now coping with severe grief and shock, for what happened to the crucifix was an act of sacrilege to the Christ, our Lord,” lamented Fr. John Le. “To desecrate the crucifix is to desecrate the most sacred symbol of the Christian faith and of the Church. To brutally assault the unarmed, innocent civilians is a savage and inhumane act as human dignity is severely hurt.”
“This gross conduct should be condemned!” he insisted.
Following the attack, priests and leaders of deaneries in the archdiocese swarmed to the area to offer support and sympathy. “They consoled the victims and concelebrated Mass, praying for the injured and for Dong Chiem parish as a whole,” said Fr. John Le.
Though the attack took place on the parish cemetery mount, the Vietnamese government has denied the Church's ownership of it, citing the Communist land policy which claims that all land belongs to the people and to the state, as acting manager for the people.
Fr. John Le refuted this, saying “the mount has always been in the ownership of the parish since its establishment more than a hundred years ago.”
Concluding his statement with a plea, Fr. John Le asked for “fervent prayers from all priests, religious, seminarians, and all faithful, for Dong Chiem parish to be steadfast in bearing our Christ's cross. Let us pray for our country to become just, democratic, and civilized, where sacred values are respected and human rights protected.”