Another Vietnamese bishop has protested government seizure of Church-owned property, as government officials in the Vinh Long diocese-- following the example of their colleagues in Hanoi-- have announced plans to convert the property of a local monastery into a public park.

In a December 18 statement, Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan says that he is speaking out because "the voice of power seems to have prevailed over the voice of justice." He decried the "shameless ingratitude" of public officials who have seized property where the Church has, for years, housed and educated orphans.

Below is the full text of his letter:

Vinh Long, 18th of December 2008

To priests, religious, and lay people of Vinh Long diocese.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Seven months ago, on May 18, I raised my voice to attract the attention to the grievance of Sisters Saint Paul of Chartres, of you, and of myself after the government of Vinh Long province had announced on May 9 their decision to build a hotel on the sisters’ land at 3 To Thi Huynh Street (formerly known as Nguyen Truong To Street) where located their monastery which had been destroyed since 1993.

Today, I have to raise my voice again after the announcement of the government of Vinh Long province on Dec. 12 to build on the land “a public square to serve common benefits” (Statement No. 163/TB-UBND Dec. 12, 2008).

It is so embittered for the sisters, for you, and for me, too. How we can help not become bitter when running an orphanage is distorted into “training a generation of unfortunate youth to be an anti-revolution force to oppose the liberation of the country”? How we can help not to feel painful to see the sisters being kicked out of their monastery empty-handed after 31 years serving the poor and the unfortunate? How sad to see the ruin of the monastery which our brothers and sisters had contributed countless efforts to build for more than a century. And how sorrowful to see a place for worshipping God, for praying to Him, for spiritual training, and for providing charity services being converted into a place for entertaining.

Maybe my voice today is just “a voice in a desert(Mt 3:3) as the voice of the power seems to prevail over the voice of justice, of conscience, especially in an era where material things supersede morality, charity and justice. However, I still have to raise my voice so that future generations won’t condemn us as those who have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, and a mouth but do not dare to speak.

In the communion of the Catholic Church, I earnestly ask you to keep praying for the diocese and our brothers and sisters who have to face these difficulties.

As we celebrate this Christmas, let us earnestly implore our God and Savior grant unto the world His true peace, a peace in its fullness that is based on justice and morality.

In Christ,

+ Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan

Bishop of Vinh Long

© Translated from Vietnamese by VietCatholic Network