Hanoi (Jan 10 2008). A sudden mass protest of Hanoi Catholics on Thursday, January 10 blocked Hanoi traffic for hours. Prayer protests for the restitution of the old building of the apostolic delegation in Hanoi have occurred every night since December 18. But this time, it occurred at noon, drawing larger crowd.

Priests in their vestments protested after the Mass
Thousands attended the protest
After the Mass to celebrate the 89th birthday of Cardinal Paul Joseph Pham Dinh Tung, retired archbishop of Hanoi; priests, religious and the laity of the archdiocese made a sudden mass protest in front of the old apostolic delegation’s building. The protest that lasted for more than half an hour caused traffic in the nearby neighborhood blocked for hours as police were not prepared for the event. Protest organizers estimated the crowd at up to 1000 people.

“We vow to fight for the justice to the end”, said a Catholic in the crowd.

In a letter, released on December 15, 2007, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi told his congregation that the Apostolic Delegate’s Office within the premises of his palace was seized illegally by the government since 1959. He asked the congregation to pray for the return of the building.

On December 18, a rally - the first demonstration of Hanoi Catholics since the communists came to power in 1954 - was held drawing thousands Catholics to the street. There continued to be prayer protests since then.

On December 30, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited the archbishopric palace. He saw by his eyes people praying in front of the building and waiting in long queues to sign a petition for its return to the Church. However, so far, no concrete solution has been reached to satisfy the legitimate aspiration of Hanoi Catholics.