Vietnamese bishop condemns government take over of monastery

The Monastery of the Congregation of St. Paul of Chartres being demolished
The Monastery of the Congregation of St. Paul of Chartres being demolished


A Vietnamese bishop has strongly condemned the initiation of a “sorrowful” project to convert a monastery in the Diocese of Vinh Long into a public square.

Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan of Vinh Long, in an Oct. 28 letter to the priests, religious and laity of his diocese, said that the local government had aggressively started the project despite the ongoing protest of the diocese and the Congregation of St. Paul of Chartres, the monastery’s former occupants.

The bishop said that local authorities had not informed him of the decision, which he learned from reading the newspaper, Fr. J.B. An Dang tells CNA.

The action is “so embittering” for Catholics, the bishop continued.

“It’s so sorrowful to see a place for worshiping God, for praying to Him, for spiritual training, and for providing charity services being converted into a place for entertainment.”

He added that he also felt disgust at seeing the Catholic cemetery of the diocese illegally seized and demolished for a public park.

Bishop Thomas Nguyen said the incident is part of the ongoing injustice his diocese has suffered since the “disastrous day” of Sept. 7, 1977. On that date the local authorities used the armed forces to blockade and raid the cathedral, the major seminary and the Holy Cross College of Vinh Long. Authorities arrested all the leaders of the institutions, including Bishop Nguyen Van Tan himself.

The bishop reported that all leading clergy had to leave the institutions.

“Few were imprisoned. Others were transferred to other places,” he said, charging that local authorities had falsely denounced them of “training youth to be an anti-revolution force to oppose the liberation of the country.”

The Vietnamese government reportedly told religious leaders that it would grant land-use rights if they asked, but the bishop thought this was impossible as long as the government considered the religious to be criminals.

Bishop Thomas Nguyen asked the faithful to pray more intensely for holy souls and for the end of the injustices that the diocese has suffered.

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