Vietnam Religious Decline Official Christmas Greetings

Protest Travel Restrictions, Government Take-Over of Property

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ROME, DEC. 19, 2011 ( Redemptorist religious of Ho Chi Minh City, the capital of Vietnam, rejected a Christmas and New Year’s courtesy visit by a delegation of the Religious Affairs department of the Vietnamese government.

Eglises d’Asie, the agency of the Foreign Missions of Paris, reported that the congregation’s Provincial Secretariat sent an official letter Dec. 13, to the Office for Religious Affairs and Ethnic Minorities of Ho Chi Minh City, former Saigon.

According to Eglises d’Asie the visit is a tradition since the beginning of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1954. Every year, shortly before Christmas, delegations of several government entities greet the principal religious institutions of the region. The delegation would have been led by the vice-director for Religious Affairs of Saigon.

The day before the planned visit, Dec. 13, Redemptorist Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai, head of the office of the Redemptorist Province of Vietnam sent a letter explaining the reason for the decision in the following words: «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 to go abroad, notified to our Provincial Superior, Father Pham Trung Thanh, and to the chancellor of the Congregation, Father Dinh Huu Thoai.»

The letter also laments that construction commenced, without authorization by the city’s authorities, in religious properties belonging to the Redemptorists. Up to now, it adds, «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 the New Year, would do nothing other than diminish the joy of the celebration of the feasts.»

On July 10, security officials impeded Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh from boarding a plane to Singapore, and the same prohibition was applied to the chancellor of the Redemptorists. The other two issues are related to the Congregation’s properties in Saigon, confiscated by the state after the 1975 regime change, and in which the authorities began to carry out works, without previously consulting the religious in charge.


One recent report on problems concerning the properties concerned clashes between a group of hundreds of protesters and police in Hanoi. According to a Dec. 2 report by VietCatholic News the parishioners had submitted a petition to authorities asking them not to go ahead with the construction of a sewage plant on church property.

After handing the petition in, the parishioners from Thai Ha were surrounded by police who attacked them and also arrested some of them. According to the report among those detained were Redemptorist Father Joseph Nguyen Van Phuong, pastor of Thai Ha Parish, Father Joseph Luong Van Long of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, some other clergy and at least 30 parishioners.

On Nov. 3, hundreds of people broke into the courtyard of the church of Thai Ha. They threatened to kill the priests and parishioners and used sledgehammers to damage the property.

Another report on the incident by Radio Free Asia showed how the issue is ongoing. The report mentioned that in 2008, Thai Ha parishioners held a series of rallies calling for the return of other church property seized by the state.

At the time, a court in Hanoi handed seven parishioners suspended sentences of 12 to 15 months in prison for disturbing public order and damaging property, while another was given a warning.

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