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Catholic World News News Feature

Viet bishops ask prayers in struggle with government; US hierarchy expresses solidarity October 06, 2008

After an October 1 meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, the leaders of the Vietnamese bishops' conference have issued a message to the faithful, asking for prayers as they confront "numerous obstacles and difficulties" in relations with the government.

In their message the Vietnamese bishops reported a "frank dialogue" with the prime minister, but admitted that the session had produced no positive movement toward resolution of a series of property disputes.

The Vietnamese bishops received a strong message of support from their US counterparts. Bishop Thomas Wenski, the chairman of the justice-and-peace committee for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote to Bishop Peter Nguyen Van Nhon of Da Lat, the president of the Vietnamese episcopal conference, to assure him of "our solidarity with the Church in Vietnam at this difficult time." Bishop Wenski said that the American hierarchy fully supported the Vietnamese hierarchy in its efforts to reach a peaceful resolution over the disputes over properties seized by the government. The American bishop observed that it was "all the more worrisome" that Vietnamese government officials had apparently reneged on a promise to restore Church ownership of the land once occupied by the apostolic nuncio's office in Hanoi.

In the Hanoi archdiocese, meanwhile, Church officials reported another ugly result of the government's propaganda campaign against Catholics. A parish in Thien Ly village, outside Hanoi, suffered violent attacks every day for a week, the pastor reported. A mob gathered around the church each day, shouting slogans and intimidating the members of the small congregation. In spurts of violence, the members of the mob broke windows in the church and threatened the lives of priests and parishioners.

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