Vietnamese Episcopate Protests Against Persecution

Meets with Government Officials

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HANOI, Vietnam, OCT. 21, 2002 ( Bishops in Vietnam took an unprecedented step when they protested to the country’s National Assembly about the persecutions endured by Catholics of ethnic minorities.

Never before, since its establishment in 1979, had the Vietnamese bishops’ conference formally expressed its concern over civil-rights violations of Catholics living in Kontum and the central highlands, as well as in the northern province of Son La.

According to a statement of Father Antoine Nguyên van Son, secretary of the conference, transmitted by the Eglises d’Asie agency, the protest arose during the episcopate’s annual meeting, held Oct. 12-17.

Bishop Paul Nguyên Van Hoa, conference president, met with a representative of the National Assembly to discuss the situation of Catholics in the mountains. He also handed over a letter for the country’s deputies.

Father Son refused to reveal the exact content of the letter. But an Eglises d’Asie source said the letter has numerous references to cases of persecution of Catholics in central and northern Vietnam.

Eglises d’Asie also revealed that a similar episcopal protest was presented to Le Quang Vinh, director of the government’s Religious Affairs Office, on Oct. 9.

According to this statement, “government officials went into the homes of faithful where they destroyed altars and statues, confiscated books and rosaries. They obliged the faithful to sign written texts in which they promised to abandon religion, and to cease to give religious education and to propagate the Gospel.”

The bishops’ protests coincided with the Oct. 10-16 visit of a Vatican delegation to Vietnam.

Eglises d’Asie reported that the government did not allow the delegation, led by Monsignor Celestino Migliore, undersecretary for relations with states, to visit, as planned, the dioceses of Thanh Hoa in the north, Xuan Loc in the south, and Kontum and Buon Ma Thuot in the highlands.

The delegation was able to visit Bui Chu Diocese in north Vietnam and Danang in the center.

According to these missionary sources, during the negotiations the government rejected the appointment of Bishop Nguyên Van Hoa, bishop of Nha Trang and president of the episcopal conference, to the post of coadjutor bishop of Hanoi.

The episcopal appointments proposed for the Diocese of Hung Hoa, vacant since 1992, and for Xuan Loc, were also rejected.

The government asked for time to consider two new proposals of the Vatican delegation: the appointment of a bishop for the north, instead of the apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Hanoi, whose cardinal is 84, and the appointment of a successor to the bishop of Kontum, who turns 75 next month.

Authorities accepted the Vatican proposals for Hai Phong, vacant for three years, and for the post of coadjutor bishop of Can Tho.

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