Hanoi Catholics have reacted angrily after a government’s announcement to trial parishioners who had protested for months at Thai Ha.

Praying for parishioners to be put on trial
Thousands of Catholics at Thai Ha
Thousands of Catholics have gathered at Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery at Thai Ha to put their support behind eight parishioners who will soon to go on trial. Some special services have been held to pray for four men and four women of Thai Ha parish who were charged with numerous offenses by Dao Van Cuong, chief procurator of Bureau of Investigation of Dong Da district.

In a 16-page report, published on Monday, Cuong argued that the land in dispute at Thai Ha parish is a state-owned property and praying at such a state site is illegal and disturbing public order. However, for Thai Ha parishioners, the claim is baseless. They have challenged the local government to provide any documents to support its claim. So far, it has failed to do so. Nevertheless, the report insists on the claim and charges parishioners of destroying state property.

The report will be used as a legal document to trial the eight parishioners according to the Vietnam Criminal Code. Yet, it dedicates most of its 16 pages to denounce Hanoi Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet and Redemptorist priests at Thai Ha for something that quite irrelevant to the trial.

Firstly, it echoes an accusation against Hanoi Archbishop by Nguyen The Thao, chairman of Hanoi People’s Committee charging the prelate of “smearing the nation.” The blame was based on a prelate’s comment that was tailored and pulled out of context in order to condemn him.

Cuong then uses the allegation to justify for the attack at Thai Ha church on Sunday Sept. 21 when a street gang attacked a chapel at the church from late Sunday night through early Monday morning.

According to local Redemptorist priests, during the attack, the gang “yelled out slogans calling for the head of the Archbishop of Hanoi and Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, the religious superior of Thai Ha monastery.”

The ruffians took their fury out on Church property. “All statues of Our Lady where protestors pray every day were completely destroyed. They left pieces of the statues inside the yard of the monastery,” the Redemptorists at the monastery added.

Cuong, a procurator, argues that the “furious people” had their rights to do so and insists that the police did their best to protect Catholic faithful. His statement again seems to contradict with Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung’s letter of complaint, which was released immediately on the next day and addressed to the People’s Committee of Hanoi City and police agencies of Hanoi and Dong Da district.

“The gang yelled out slogans threatening to kill priests, religious, faithful and even our archbishop,” the monastery’s superior clergyman wrote.

Father Matthew Vu continued, saying “everything happened clearly in front of a large number of officials, police, security personnel, anti-riot police, and mobile police – those who are in charge of keeping security and safety in the region.

The report concludes that the parishioners must be punished severely for “destroying state property, assembling and praying illegally in public areas, and disturbing public order.” It attributes the offenses of the parishioners for "a certain number of priests, under the guidance of Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet" had "taken advantage of religion, of faith and the lack of understanding of the law among the Catholic demonstrators in order to violate the law intentionally.”