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Hanoi: archbishop under virtual house arrest October 01, 2008

In an escalating battle with government officials in Hanoi, Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet is now under virtual house arrest.

The archbishop's office is closed. His staff has locked the gate outside the office to prevent sudden attacks by the pro-government mobs that gather regularly outside, yelling slogans in praise of Communism and questioning the prelate's patriotism. Some of his normal activities have also been delayed or cancelled due to security reasons. Archbishop Ngo cannot leave his residence without confronting the mobs, and the faithful dare not call on him for the same reason.

On the rooftop of Hoan Kiem primary school, right across from the archbishop’s office, and on other nearby buildings a panoply of electronic equipment has been set up: spy cameras and listening devices overtly deployed to monitor all activities in the office. The blatant use of this monitoring equipment also served to intimidate those who might wish to contact the archbishop.

Other measures to isolate Msgr. Joseph Ngo have also been employed. The church at Mac Thuong in Ly Nhan, Ha Nam, was raided by thugs on Wednesday. Young toughs went inside the church, shouting obscenities at those who were praying there, threatening that their lives would not be easy until the archbishop was removed. Father Phuong, the pastor of Mac Thuong, reported that his parishioners had no means of defending themselves. Mac Thuong is a small parish with only 300 faithful and most men in the parish have to work far away from home.

Catholic correspondents in Hanoi also reported a number of cases in which elderly people have been hired to go to the archbishop’s office, masquerading as Catholics, to call for his resignation.

On another front, the archbishop’s office has received an order from the People's Committee of the Hoan Kiem district, accusing the archbishop and his staff of illegally placing a statue on a state building. Along with the decision to confiscate the statue, the committee announced the imposition of a fine on the archbishop for the alleged offense.

The statue in question was placed on the grounds of the building that once served as the apostolic nunciature in Hanoi. Church officials have consistently argued that the building rightly belongs to the Church, and produced real-estate documents supporting that argument. Father John Le Trong Cung, vice chancellor of the archdiocese, explains that “the nunciature and its land are not state properties. They are Church’s properties. Hanoi Catholics did nothing wrong when they placed the statue on the ground of the building.”

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