After tailoring and quoting Hanoi archbishop's remark out of context in an attempt to raise serious doubts about his patriotism, state media have exploited another comment to accuse him of ungratefulness. "Hanoi reacted angrily to statement of the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops ", so they claimed

Redemptorists closed their main gate
Thousands of Catholics praying at Thai Ha church despite threats
“Religious freedom is a human right not a grace poured out on us [from the government],” said Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet during a meeting with the People’s Committee of Hanoi city last week. His statement was quoted and purposely interpreted as an evidence of his attitude of ingratitude on most state-controlled media, especially on a state TV show on Sep. 25 – a show depicted as “a public trial” against the prelate.

A day after the nunciature was bulldozed suddenly with the backing of a great mass of police aided by hundreds of trained dogs; Msgr. Joseph Ngo went to the city committee to protest. “Mr Chairman has just said that: the City’s People’s Committee has facilitated worship conditions for the Catholic Church in recent years, especially at Christmas...We acknowledge that there have been such changes. However, there seems to be a psychology of 'granting on request': that is, here is a favour that I grant to you on your request. But, religious freedom is a natural human right everyone is entitled to, not at the mercy of those in power. A government ‘for the people’ must have the responsibility to relax conditions for everyone to enjoy it. It is not a grace poured out on us by request. No, it’s not. Again, religious freedom is a human right, not a grace granted on request,” said the archbishop during the meeting.

“I am really upset when reading statements sent to Catholics from state officials,” said Maria Vu Minh Tuyet after morning Sunday Mass at Queen of Rosary Cathedral of Hai Phong, 102km away from Hanoi. “They have always been started with the refrain ‘the Party has facilitated worship conditions’. Stop telling us it is a grace the Party grants us. We do not need to beg for it. We are entitled to enjoy it. It’s a basic human right,” she added.

Facing this on-going tidal wave of false accusations and distortions, dioceses in Vietnam have asked the archbishop’s statement to be read out at every Sunday Mass along with another one from the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a letter to all parishes in Hai Phong, a suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Hanoi, Fr. Paul Vu Dinh Viet, chancellor of the bishop’s office, urges his colleagues “to read out his statement in the full text during Sunday Mass and give necessary explanations if needed be.”

As an indication of how Hanoi has reacted on the statement of the Vietnam Conference of Catholic Bishops, pro-government mob attacked Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery again on Saturday, but this time in broad day light. “A mob of a hundred thugs threatened people who came to pray at Thai Ha church on Saturday afternoon,” said Fr. Joseph Nguyen from Hanoi. “They even went inside the church shouting obscenities at those who were praying there.”

“These acts of violence happened boldly in clear view and in front of a large number of public officials and police, but they did nothing to protect the Catholics. When a parishioner asked a policeman to intervene, he refused,” Fr. Nguyen reported.

Hanoi Redemptorists had to close their main gate and cancel some activities due to security reasons. On Saturday morning, some delegations from Hanoi Police came to Thai Ha to threaten them with many “extreme actions”. Fr. Joseph Nguyen told Asia-News: “Police said that they are investigating and pondering legal actions against the Redemptorists on what the government accused them of doing such as inciting and organizing protests among the faithful in order to gain public sympathy for their cause.”

In another incident, People’s Committee of Hoan Kiem district, where the nunciature is located, sent to Hanoi archbishop’s office a correspondence stating that the committee had confiscated the statue of the Pieta. Protestors had wheeled the statue onto the nunciature grounds during their first vigil right before Christmas 2007. In fact, the statue had been located at the disputed property before it was seized by the communists in 1959.

In the correspondence 740/QĐ-CTUBND, Hoang Cong Khoi, chairman of the committee accused the archbishop’s office of placing the statue illegally on a state site. Along with the decision to confiscate the statue, the committee also sent to the archbishop’s office a fine ticket of 1,750,000 VND (105 USD).

“They continue to persecute us by any means,” said Fr. Joseph Nguyen.