Arrested Vietnamese Priest Interrogated Daily, Report Says

Supporters Continue Struggle for Religious Liberty

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 23, 2001 ( A Vietnamese priest arrested in May for his outspoken support of religious freedom in his country is being subjected to multiple interrogations every day, a U.S.-based commission says.

Father Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, 54, is giving frank answers to captors at an unidentified location, said a report published by the Washington, D.C.-based Commission for Religious Liberty in Vietnam. The report cited sources in the Southeast Asian nation.

In February Father Van Ly urged the U.S. government not to ratify a trade agreement with Vietnam because of its grave human-rights violations.

In May, following his arrest by police who stormed a parish church, Hanoi rejected a plea by U.S. President George W. Bush for the priest´s release.

According to the July 16 issue of the Churches of Asia magazine, two priests of Hue, an area close to Father Van Ly, have reiterated their support for the detained priest.

In an open letter dated June 24, Fathers Pierre Nguyen Huu Giai and Nguyen Van Loi say they have been «assigned to a residence and are closely watched,» and express their solidarity with leaders and followers of Unified Buddhism and the original Hoa Hoa Buddhism (Thuan Tuy), currently being persecuted by the police.

The two priests requested the Communist authorities to abandon their hostile policy on religious liberty and release Father Van Ly.

On July 14, a month after a Vatican delegation to Vietnam pressed the Holy See´s requests for new bishops there, John Paul II filled some vacancies.

Bishops were selected for Bui Chu, which has been without a bishop for some time; for Phan Thiet, whose bishop is elderly; and for Ho Chi Minh City, formerly called Saigon.

Father Joseph Hoang Van Tiem, a professor of moral theology at the Hanoi major seminary, was appointed bishop of Bui Chu.

Father Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan, from Ham Tan, was appointed coadjutor bishop of Phan Thiet.

Father Joseph Vu Duy Thong, a professor at the major seminary in the Ho Chi Minh-Ville Archdiocese, was appointed auxiliary bishop.

The appointments had been expected after Vatican officials in June reported some headway, with some of the Church´s choices winning government approval but others being rejected.

Among the Vatican choices reportedly rejected for the bishop´s posts was one to replace an 82-year-old bishop in Hanoi, another for a diocese in the northeast which has been without a bishop since 1992 and another for a diocese lacking a bishop for three years, the Associated Press reported.

Vietnam´s 76 million people are predominantly Buddhist. The nation has 8 million Catholics.

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