After a long wait of more than 8 months for the requisition of the nunciature, today Hanoi Catholics have been told the government would not honor its promise. Hundreds of police have been deployed to protect building workers demolishing the building.
At 3:30 am local time today, hundreds of police besieged Hanoi archbishop palace, St. Joseph Cathedral, and blocked all the roads leading to the nunciature. Dozens of bulldozers moved into the area and started digging out the lawn. At 6 am, Hanoi television and radio announced that the government decided to demolish the building to convert it and the land around into a public playground park.
Priests in St. Joseph Cathedral rung bells continously to ask for help. Hundreds of Catholics hearing the bells rushed to site to protest. At a point a woman and a priest pushed through police cordon, got inside to stop the workers. But soon they were arrested.
At the meantime, thousands of priests and faithful protest at the site.
The incident at Hanoi nunciature is one in a series of provocations from the government. At 1:00 am, a group of gangs attacked an altar at Thai Ha where Redemptorists celebrate open Mass for protestors. The altar was ransacked, and statues of Our Lady were sprayed with vehicle used oil.
Another group of gangs verbally attacked priests and protestors with cursing and foul languages during a procession last night.
In addition, yesterday, police started a new wave of arrests. Hanoi Redemptorists confirmed that at least one protestor, Mr. Pham Tri Nang of Thuong Le, Dai Thinh, Me Linh, Vinh Phuc, was arrested.
Hanoi Redemptorists also disclosed on Wednesday the People’s Committee of Hanoi “invited them” to have a talk on the dispute. But, the talk turned out to be a chance for officials to ridicule them.
During the meeting, Hanoi Redemptorists stated that they had received 4 different documents from the Committee. All of them were supposed to be the evidence to support the state theory that Fr. Vu Ngoc Bich donated the land. However, two of them stated that Fr. Vu donated the land on Oct. 24, 1961, another on Nov. 24, 1961, and the other on Jan. 30, 1961. Also, the papers showed characters in a Unicode font that could not be available in 1961, as simply computer did not exist at that time.
Vu Hong Khanh, the vice chairman of Hanoi reacted angrily. “I will sort them out and among them, choose the best,” he said challenging that the priests would have no way to challenge the ownership of the land. He even went further teach them how to preach their flock. Found himself being ridiculed harshly, a priest stood up asking Khanh not to teach him how to be a priest.
J.B. An Dang