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Catholic World News News Feature

Hanoi's archbishop ready for arrest January 29, 2008

Hanoi's Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet has said that he is prepared to go to jail to defend the right of lay Catholics to continue a prayer vigil outside the former offices of the apostolic nuncio in Vietnam.

As government authorities denounced the demonstrations and hinted that arrests might soon be made to break the prayer vigils, the archbishop was quoted by a priest as saying: "I'm prepared to go to jail for my flock, should the government jail them."

The archbishop said that "if the government prohibits us to pray here, on our property, then this country is just a big jail!"

The protests outside the nuncio's office, which was seized by the government in 1961, have continued since late December, with tensions mounting as the more and more lay Catholics have joined in the vigils in defiance of government orders. Hundreds of peaceful Catholics have remained in the garden of the building that once housed the nunciature, braving cold rain and ignoring a police order to vacate.

The government-controlled media have described the protestors as "naïve people," and charged that the Catholic clergy have been 'lying to their flock" and inciting them against the government. The media campaign has led to fears that a police crackdown is imminent.

On Tuesday evening, January 29, Father Joseph Nguyen reported from the site of the prayer vigil: "Large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain clothes, are on the site, surrounding the protesters and mingling in their ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras. I am afraid they may attack us tonight."