Archbishop Joseph Ngô: “I’m prepared to go to jail for my flock”

Hanoi, Jan 29, 2008 / 01:20 pm (CNA).- Tensions are rising as Catholics in Hanoi continue their sit-in protests while the city police accuse the clergy of “lying to their flock” and forcing the laity to demonstrate. In response, Archbishop Joseph Ngô has said, “I’m prepared to go to jail for my flock.”

The congregation focuses on praying
Despite threatening gestures from police
A local source informed CNA that he believes the state-run newspapers are trying to prepare the locals for a crackdown on the Catholic protestors. One such example is the New Hanoi newspaper, which described the protesters as “naive people” who have put completely their trusts in their religious leaders who want to seize the building illegally.

Meanwhile, the Hanoi Police force is also engaging in a propaganda campaign against the Catholics, accusing Hanoi’s clergymen of “lying to their flock” and “forcing them to demonstrate against the government”.

Despite cold rains and biting winds, hundreds of protesters have camped out in the residence garden since last Friday.

Joseph Vu Van Khoat, a demonstrator who has camped out in the residence garden since last Friday, decried the press coverage as “nonsense”. “I don’t care what they say. You go out and ask anyone on the streets. No one believes them. In fact, those who have written such articles know well that we have gathered here voluntarily to pray peacefully for justice. But it’s their job to spell out lies”.

Another Catholic questioned the government’s lack of dialogue with the Archbishop of Hanoi. “Why do they not dare to publish in their newspapers the Archbishop’s statement?” asked Maria Doan Thi Tuyet. “In there the Archbishop argued point-by-point all charges leveled on us.”

As the Vietnamese Catholics continue to pray and demonstrate, refusing to leave the land that they say was commandeered by the government, officials threatened to take “extreme actions” against them.

Fr. Joseph Nguyen reported on the situation as of 7 pm Tuesday.

“At the moment, in the lawn of the building, hundreds religious and lay people are praying. Large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain-clothes, are on the site, surrounding the protesters and mingling in their ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras. I am afraid they may attack us tonight,” he said.

Fr. Nguyen also related that Archbishop Ngô told the demonstrators that, ‘Worshipping is a basic human right protected by laws. I'm prepared to go to jail for my flock should the government jail them.’