Vietnam land dispute: clergy did not violate Church laws
BANGKOK (UCAN) -- Vietnam's
bishops have affirmed that local clergy engaged in land disputes with the
government in Ha Noi have not violated canon law, after the government
petitioned them to deal with those clergy.
Nguyen The Thao, head of the
People's Committee of Ha Noi, petitioned the Vietnam Bishops' Conference to "deal
strictly and according to Church regulations with" Archbishop Joseph Ngo
Quang Kiet of Ha Noi and Fathers Pierre Nguyen Van Khai, John Nguyen Ngoc Nam
Phong, Matthew Vu Khoi Phung and Joseph Nguyen Van That, Redemptorist priests
stationed at Thai Ha parish.
On Sept. 23, Thao asked the
country's bishops to "transfer" Archbishop Kiet and the Redemptorists
to places outside the archdiocese. The government official also accused the
five of instigating other clergy and Catholics to violate laws, cause social
disorder and hold illegal religious activities.
Earlier on Sept. 21 and 22,
Thao issued statements warning Archbishop Kiet and the Redemptorists to "stop
immediately their activities against the law." If not, they would be dealt
with according to the law, he threatened.
On Sept. 25 the People's
Committee of Hoan Kiem district, where the contested former apostolic
nunciature is located, fined the archbishop's house 1,750,000 dong (US$106) for
having placed a cross and a Pieta statue in the nunciature compound. The
government removed the religious items from the site that same evening.
After taking the cases into
consideration, "we see that these clergy have not acted against current
Canon Law of the Catholic Church," the bishops affirmed in their Sept. 25
letter to the Ha Noi People's Committee.
The letter, issued during
the biennial bishops' conference meeting, was signed by Bishop Pierre Nguyen
Van Nhon of Da Lat, conference president. The meeting was held Sept. 22-26 at
the Xuan Loc bishop's house in Long Khanh, 1,630 kilometers south of Ha Noi.
The bishops also presented
their views on various problems in the country in a two-page statement attached
to their letter. They highlighted property laws that do not honor private
ownership, corruption, dishonesty in state-run media, and the spread of
deceitfulness in many fields, even in education. They also warned about the
increasing use of force in resolving land disputes and other problems, which
they said will cause more injustice in society.
They suggested laws
regarding property should be amended so that people have the right to possess
what is theirs, while recognizing their social responsibilities. "That
will be the basic premise of fully resolving people's land and property
disputes, and developing the country," they said.
The Church leaders
maintained information on the contested nunciature has been distorted by local
media, and they urged communications workers to respect the truth and be highly
cautious about reporting news and publishing photos, especially when these
relate to the honor and prestige of individuals and communities. "Only
when respecting the truth do media really fulfill their function of
communication and education so as to build a society of justice, democracy and
civilization," they added.
Noting that Vietnamese
people traditionally appreciate mutual affection and harmony, the bishops
expressed their desire that all people end violence in their actions and words.
People also should not look at the property disputes from a political or
criminal standpoint, they said.
solution would be reached only through frank, open and sincere dialogue, in
peace and mutual respect for one another," they stated.
The bishops also sent their
letter and statement to the premier, the president, the government committee
for religious affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and local Redemptorists.
These reportedly were read during Sunday Masses on Sept. 28 at all churches
throughout the country, and copies distributed among local Catholics.
Many priests and Catholics
from the south told UCA News they appreciated their bishops' clear and positive
views and will continue to pray for the local Church and the government to seek
a proper solution to solve these cases in the near future.
Franciscan Father Guy Marie
Nguyen Hong Giao, 71, told UCA News on Sept 30 that the bishops offered
constructive, positive and practical suggestions. "If the government takes
them into serious consideration, they surely will help bring sustainable,
stable and quick development for the country."