Hanoi, Nov. 17, 2008
(CWNews.com) - A Redemptorist monastery in Hanoi that has been the focus of a
struggle between Catholic activists and government officials was attacked by a
mob on Saturday night, November 15. Rather than trying to protect the
monastery, police did their best to impede rescue efforts.
Hundreds of people, backed
by the People's Committee of Quang Trung precinct, attacked the chapel. The violence
began after representatives of the People's Committee had asked the
Redemptorist priests for an urgent meeting. Father Joseph Nguyen Van That, as
spokesman for the Redemptorist community, said that he was convinced the
meeting had been scheduled as a diversionary tactic to clear the way for the
mob violence. "It was an organized attack at nighttine," he said.
Summoned by priests who rang
the monastery's bells, hundreds of local Catholics rushed to save the church.
But as the mob ransacked the chapel, police concentrated their efforts on
keeping the Catholic rescuers away from the building.
This was the second time the
St. Gerardo chapel had been attacked by thugs. On September 21, the chapel was
vandalized, with statues destroyed and books torn off shelves and thrown on the
floor. The invaders "yelled, smashed everything on their way, threw stones
into our monastery, and shattered the gate of Saint Gerardo Chapel,” wrote
Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, the Redemptorist superior. In addition, "the
gang yelled out slogans threatening to kill priests, religious, faithful and
even our archbishop,” he added.
After morning Sunday Masses
on November 16, a great number of Catholics from churches in Hanoi, hearing about the destruction that had
taken place the previous evening, traveled to the Thai Ha district to show
their solidarity with the Redemptorists. "It’s an obvious persecution
against Catholics by the government,” said one Catholic parishioner.
"It was significant
that the government stroke Thai Ha parish right on the day Catholics in Vietnam celebrated the Feast of Vietnamese
Martyrs,” Father Joseph Nguyen reported from Hanoi. "This attack reminds people that
since its very first outset, the seed offFaith in Vietnam soil was mixed with the
abundant blood of the martyrs from all walks of life."