Saturday, 27th September 2008. 8:20pm

By: Judy West.

Hundreds of Catholic protestors seeking the return of a former papal nunciature confiscated by the communist government were attacked on Thursday afternoon in a confrontation with youths, military veterans, and members of other communist associations, the Catholic News Agency is reporting.

The pro-government gang chased protestors from the area and then gathered at the gate of the Archbishop of Hanoi’s office, yelling communist slogans and calling for the head of the archbishop, whom they accused of treason.

During the protest the staff at the Archbishop’s office retreated behind closed doors, but one of those affected told the Catholic News Agency that there were hundreds of police and government officials nearby, but did nothing to help.

Those officials were helping to secure the demolition of the papal nunciature, and they reportedly helped the protestors to destroy an iron cross that protesters had planted there earlier this year.

The incident comes just one week after a letter written by several US Congressmen asked the Vietnamese government to respect peaceful protests and the rights of free speech and religious expression.

“According to current land law, we have the chance to protest the government decisions up to three times. And after that if our petition is still rejected we still have another chance to solve the dispute at a court. Why did you announce the decision to convert it into a park when we have only been rejected for the first time, and we are still protesting lawfully?” asked Fr Nguyen The Hien of Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery.