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Vietnamese officials restrict bishop in diocese marked by conversions

Catholic World News - December 27, 2010

Facing a wave of conversion to Catholicism among ethnic Montagnards, the local government of Vietnam’s Kontum Province has obstructed the bishop’s pastoral duties with many obstacles, including a ban from celebrating Mass on Christmas Day.??

Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh of Kontum could not celebrate Mass for his flock at Son Lang village in the county of K’Bang, even though the event had been properly scheduled and the appropriate government officials had been informed.

In a pastoral letter dated December 22, Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh stated that he had discussed with Vietnam government whether he, as the bishop of the diocese, could carry out his pastoral duties during this Christmas season without obstacles. “Authorities at various levels assured me I can do so,” he wrote.

However, at 10 AM on Christmas Day, local officials at Son Lang, backed by police and militia, denied his rights to celebrate the Mass. “If you want to celebrate your Mass you can do so, but not for everyone here. You have to go to each family, and each Mass cannot last for more than one hour,” he was told. He gave his blessings to the congregation and cancelled the Mass as a gesture of protest.??

Bishop Michael Hoang has made historic progress in the diocese: 30,000 Montagnards converted to Catholicism in 2008, and more than 20,000 in the next year.?The wave of conversions drew attention from the government, and local officials were evidently determined to stop it.

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