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Priests refuse government Christmas visit in Ho Chi Minh City

 HO CHI MINH CITY (Agencies): The Redemptorist priests in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, refused to receive a delegation from the Religious Affairs Department for its traditional Christmas and New Year goodwill visit.

Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai sent a letter to Office for Religious Affairs and Ethnic Minorities on December 13, the day before the scheduled visit, declining to receive the government officials.

According to Eglises d’Asia of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the visit has been a tradition since the foundation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1954. The delegation was scheduled to have been led by the vice director of the Religious Affairs Department.

In his letter declining to receive the delegation, Father Dinh said, “In the course of this year, we have sent many letters to the Office of Religious Affairs and Ethnic Minorities of the city, in regard to the prohibition to leave the country and go abroad, notified our provincial superior, Father Pham Trung Thanh, and to the chancellor of the congregation, Father Dinh Huu Thoai.”

He also pointed out that the congregation had asked the city authorities to act against unauthorised construction works on land owned by the Redemptorist congregation, but nothing had happened.

“Up until now, we have not received an answer from your office, which has not complied with its duty. Hence, we consider that the visit and your greetings, on the occasion of Christmas and New Year, would do nothing other than diminish the joy of the celebration of the feasts.”

Fides reports that on July 10, Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh was prevented from boarding a plane for Singapore and Father Dinh was also stopped from leaving the country at a later date.

On December 2, VietCatholic reported that parishioners requested the authorities not to go ahead with the building of sewerage works on Church land. In handing in their petition, they were surrounded by police, who attacked and arrested 32 people, including two priests.

The on the following day, hundreds of people broke into the churchyard and threatened to kill the priests, as well as damaging property with sledgehammers. The police took no action.

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