Vietnamese Catholics in Australia held prayer vigils on weekend to pray for the Church in Vietnam and protested what they described as the harshest crackdown on Catholics in Vietnam in decades.

In Sydney, Catholics, Buddhists and representatives of other religious groups led thousands of people in a prayer vigil for the Catholics of Hanoi, and called upon the Vietnamese government to put an end to the persecution against them.

More than 2,000 people at the prayer vigil at Caramatta’s St. Sacred Heart church on Friday night were joined by numerous political representatives, like Senator David Clarke, Councilman Nhan Tran, Candidate for Assemblywoman Dai Le, and other members of various Sydney’s organisations including Venerable Thich Phuoc Dat of The Vietnamese Buddhist Phuc Hue temple.

Vietnamese priests in Sydney’s archdiocese concelebrating in the Mass were joined by Fr. Krystof Chwalek, a Polish priest; Fr. Tomas, an Italian priest; and Fr. Nguyen Van Hung, a Vietnamese priest from Taiwan.

Attendances could see on giant screens the images of an overt persecution that Hanoi Catholics have been suffered: churches ransacked, the former nunciature in Hanoi bulldozed, a peaceful religious procession ruined by tear gas, Catholic protestors beaten by police with stun gun, Catholic leadership false denounced on state media, pro-government thugs yelling death threats against Hanoi Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet who has since Sep. 19 been under virtual house arrested.

They also could hear the voice of Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai from Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery, a site that has been one of the focal targets of pro-government thugs recently.

Fr. Nguyen Khoa Toan, PP, the priest-in-charge of Vietnamse Catholic Chaplaincy in Sydney, in his sermon, reiterated the viewpoint of the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops that “Politics is not in the Church’s functionalities, yet we cannot stand aside from society.” Because, “the joy and hope, sorrow and worry of the Vietnamese people are also the joy and hope, sorrow and worry of all Vietnamese Catholic faithful.” In that spirit, Catholic in Sydney gathered "to pray for their brothers and sisters in their homeland, and to denounce human rights violations by the Vietnam government against its own people."

At the end of the Mass, protestors stood hours in front of the statue of Mother of Divine Love chanting hymns, singing Rosary, and praying.

According to Fr. Paul Van Chi Chu, the coordinator of the prayer vigil, “not only in Sydney, Vietnamese Catholics in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and other states hold similar vigils to pray for the Church in Vietnam and to report to the Australian Community and the International Community about the critical situation concerning persecution against the Catholic clergy and faithful by the Vietnamese Communist government.”

For the updated situation of Hanoi Archdiocese, “at this hour," he reported, "numerous Catholics are still being detained indefinitely in jail, the Archbishop of Hanoi and several leaders of the Redemptorist Congregation in Hanoi have been subjects of a governmental campaign of public defamation and humiliation."

In addition, “Church's properties including buildings and religious items have been vandalised or ransacked in broad daylight, not to mention the priests and the pacific demonstrators are being harassed daily by vicious thugs who would stop at nothing to terrorise and to insult these innocent victims under the government's instruction. The Catholic Church in Vietnam as a whole is now the subject of Vietnam government’s persecution by definition,” he insisted.

Fr. Anthony Nguyen Huu Quang of Melbourne, the Director of People of God in Australia, told VietCatholic News that a prayer vigil would be held at Federation Square (at the corner of Swanston and Flinders Sts) on next Friday evening of Oct. 10.