.- Following reports that it destroyed a crucifix and brutalized parishioners, the Vietnamese government has blocked various Catholic news sites from its citizens and claimed that it dismantled the crucifix, rather than blowing it up.
On Jan. 6, an estimated 600-1,000 armed police officers entered the Dong Chiem parish cemetery to protect an engineering unit assigned to destroy the stone crucifix under the pretense that the fixture violated a state mandate that all religious symbols be inside a religious premise. Parishioners begged the police to stop the destruction of the crucifix but were met with tear gas and batons.
The State News Agency of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam has accused various Catholic news agencies of “distortion, false accusation and agitation against Vietnam authorities,” said J.B. An Dang, who also said that CNA has been added to the list of blocked sites.
In response to the government's claims, Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh stated on Jan. 16 that “The crucifix was smashed by sledge-hammers and blown up by explosives. Armed soldiers and police men who participated in the attack, along with parishioners who rushed to the site and witnessed the incident knew it clearly.”
Bishop Nguyen retorted, “No, it was not dismantled as distorted by The Vietnamese News Agency in a report that contradicted the statement of the archdiocese of Hanoi.”
“The debris from the explosion was everywhere,” continued the bishop. “Whether the crucifix had been 'dismantled' or 'smashed up,' let the facts speak for themselves. No one can deny it.”
According to J.B. An Dang, not all party officials condoned the destruction of the crucifix, and the local government in Dong Chiem allegedly wrote a statement on Jan. 6 confirming the attack and expressing disagreement its with it.
In other news, however, pro-government thugs were reported to have destroyed all of the tombstone crosses in the cemetery on the night of Jan. 16, including a make-shift bamboo cross that was serving as a temporary replacement for the destroyed crucifix.
J.B. An Dang reports that a local coalition is forming to safeguard the premise as much as possible.