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Catholic World News News Feature

Viet police stand by as mob ransacks Hanoi chapel November 17, 2008

A Redemptorist monastery in Hanoi that has been the focus of a struggle between Catholic activists and government officials was attacked by a mob on Saturday night, November 15. Rather than trying to protect the monastery, police did their best to impede rescue efforts.

Hundreds of people, backed by the People's Committee of Quang Trung precinct, attacked the chapel. The violence began after representatives of the People's Committee had asked the Redemptorist priests for an urgent meeting. Father Joseph Nguyen Van That, as spokesman for the Redemptorist community, said that he was convinced the meeting had been scheduled as a diversionary tactic to clear the way for the mob violence. "It was an organized attack at nighttine," he said.

Summoned by priests who rang the monastery's bells, hundreds of local Catholics rushed to save the church. But as the mob ransacked the chapel, police concentrated their efforts on keeping the Catholic rescuers away from the building.

This was the second time the St. Gerardo chapel had been attacked by thugs. On September 21, the chapel was vandalized, with statues destroyed and books torn off shelves and thrown on the floor. The invaders “yelled, smashed everything on their way, threw stones into our monastery, and shattered the gate of Saint Gerardo Chapel,” wrote Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, the Redemptorist superior. In addition, “the gang yelled out slogans threatening to kill priests, religious, faithful and even our archbishop,” he added.

After morning Sunday Masses on November 16, a great number of Catholics from churches in Hanoi, hearing about the destruction that had taken place the previous evening, traveled to the Thai Ha district to show their solidarity with the Redemptorists. “It’s an obvious persecution against Catholics by the government,” said one Catholic parishioner.

“It was significant that the government stroke Thai Ha parish right on the day Catholics in Vietnam celebrated the Feast of Vietnamese Martyrs,” Father Joseph Nguyen reported from Hanoi. “This attack reminds people that since its very first outset, the seed of Faith in Vietnam soil was mixed with the abundant blood of the martyrs from all walks of life."