.- The Vietnamese government has renewed its seizures of Catholic Church properties in the country, demolishing several monasteries to build hotels and tourist resorts. The move has generated fears that the government has adopted a new and “harsh” approach to Catholics.
Last week the government ordered the destruction of the monastery of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Family in Long Xuyen, Vietnam. A spokesman for the diocese said the former two-story home of the priests and religious of the Holy Family Order was destroyed on June 4. The Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres’ monastery in Vinh Long was also recently destroyed..
The Brothers of the Holy Family monastery, built in 1971, was still in good condition and its destruction surprised Catholic officials, Fr. J.B. An Dang reports. The local government did not inform the diocese about its intention to tear down the building and has not announced its intention for the future use of the land.
The monastery’s altar and religious statues were all discarded in a garbage dump. Neither the diocese nor the religious order has been officially informed to go and retrieve the items.
The Congregation of the Brothers of The Holy Family of Banam was founded by Bishop Valentin Herrgott, the then-Apostolic Vicar of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia in 1931. The order moved to Long Xuyen in Vietnam after a 1970 coup against Cambodian monarch Norodom Sihanouk created security concerns.
In 1984 all brothers of the congregation were arrested and charged with “anti-revolutionary activities.” Their monastery was seized and they have been jailed for years without a trial.
The congregation has repeatedly asked for the return of its monastery and has protested the unjust detention of its members.
Especially over the past two years, Vietnamese Catholics have sought the return of church properties confiscated by the government. They have met with defeat and frustration, Fr. An Dang says.
On May 21, Nguyen Thanh Xuan, the government's deputy chief of religious affairs, announced that the state "has no intention of returning any property or goods to the Catholic Church or any other religious organization."
According to Fr. An Dang, the destruction of the Long Xuyen monastery and Xuan’s statement have increased concerns that the government has applied a “new, harsh policy on Church’s properties in which there would be no more dialogue.”
The government’s new policy approach might act “as if the State is the true owner with full authority on Church’ assets.”