CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 19 August 2017

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Harassment at Easter

HANOI (UCAN): Plainclothes officials in northwest Vietnam broke into the home of a Catholic family and attempted to take a priest into custody as he was preparing to celebrate Easter Mass.
 
More than 20 men and women, who identified themselves as local officials, barged into the house where around 100 people had gathered for Mass in the town of Muong Khuong, Lao Cai province.
 
Eyewitnesses said they shouted and pushed people as they tried to take Father Peter Nguyen Dinh Thai, from Lao Cai, to the local Communist Party headquarters.
 
Many people, including women, surrounded and protected the priest. They asked the men to show their identification and the summons on the priest but they refused.
 
“I called provincial officials to tell them to intervene in the incident. Finally, the authorities left the house and Father Thai celebrated the Easter Mass,” Father Joseph Nguyen Van Thanh, the pastor of Lao Cai, explained.
 
Local authorities said they received no order from the provincial government to allow priests from Lao Cai to do anything in the homes of local Catholics. However, Father Thanh accused them of breaking promises and intentionally harassing local Catholics.
 
“We have petitioned levels of the government many times for years and the provincial government has verbally agreed to allow priests to do services in Muong Khuong and two other communes; Ban Lau and Ban Xen,” he said.
 
Father Thanh explained that the local government considers the area to have no religion and only Ban Xen is recognised as an exception. The three communes have a total of 400 people who gather in private homes to pray.
 
He said local Catholics have suffered persecution for years and the situation has not improved, even though the government pledged to respect religious freedom.
 
“We will petition the province to have a meeting with the Church and the local government to deal with the bad situation as soon as possible.”
 
On March 17, Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long, from Hung Hoa, accompanied a group to Muong Khuong, but while Bishop Long was celebrating Mass at a home, Ha Thi Khanh Nguyet, the chairperson of the town, entered the house with many local officials and asked them to work with them at their headquarters.
 
Bishop Long said the provincial government had approved the mission stations and asked the local government to stop persecuting Catholics. In response, Nguyet promised to respect them and desist from discrimination.

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