Despite the ongoing dispute between the Church and the government on the ownership of a monastery, local authorities have started demolishing it to build a public square. Local bishop condemns the aggressive action.

In a October 28 letter to the priests, religious, and lay people in his diocese, Bishop Thomas Nguyen Van Tan of Vinh Long strongly condemned the commence of a project to convert the monastery of the Congregation of St Paul of Chartres in Vinh Long diocese into a public square.

Citing the state-run Vinh Long Newspaper on Oct. 25, the prelate told his faithful that the local government had aggressively started the project disregarding the ongoing protest of the diocese and the Congregation of St Paul of Chartres. Local authorities had apparently not informed him of the decision. He only learned about the fate of the monastery from reading the newspaper.

For the prelate, the incident highlighted the ongoing injustice that his diocese has been suffering since the event on Sept. 7, 1977 the day he called “disastrous day for the Diocese of Vinh Long” when the local authorities mobilized its armed forces to blockade and raid the Cathedral, the Major Seminary and the Holy Cross College of Vinh Long diocese altogether. Authorities arrested all who were in charge of the institutions, even Bishop Nguyen Van Tan himself was among those arrested.

Since then, “all [clergy in charge of the institutions] had to move out of these premises”, the prelate continued. “Few were imprisoned. Others were transferred to other places” as local authorities falsely denounced them of “training youth to be an anti-revolution force to oppose the liberation of the country”.

Following a demagogic policy, the Vietnam government keeps telling religious leaders that it would grant land-use rights should they ask for. "But how can they grant us any favors as long as they still consider us as ‘criminals’?” the prelate asked.

Vietnam follows the Communist system of land ownership. All land belongs to the people and is managed by the State on behalf of the people.

The bishop said the action was “so embittering” for the sisters, himself, and all Catholics. “It’s so 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 entertainment,” he said.

As the Month for the Holy Souls is approaching, the prelate told his faithful that he also felt embittered seeing the Catholic cemetery of the diocese had been illegally seized and demolished for a public park.

During the Month for the Holy Souls, Bishop Thomas Nguyen asked his faithful to pray more intensively for holy souls and also for the end of injustices that the diocese has been subjected to.