Hanoi – The Catholics of the Archdiocese of Hanoi were surprised and shocked when government officials entered a church in the province of Hoa Binh and interrupted the Mass celebrated by Msgr. Joseph Vu Van Thien, Archbishop of Hanoi. As reported to Fides, the incident took place on Sunday, February 20 in the parish of Vu Ban, the church is the largest in the city, and can accommodate more than one hundred people.
Some Vietnamese officials wearing helmets, interrupted for unknown reasons the 10 a.m. mass celebrated by the Archbishop. “It was rather unpleasant and worrying to see the liturgy interrupted by the presence of several state officials”, said a note from the Archdiocese of Hanoi, referring to the I outrage expressed by the local community. Plainclothes security officers interrupted the liturgical service. Led by the head of the local branch of the Communist Party, they marched to the altar, ordering the Archbishop in an altered voice to immediately stop the liturgy and disperse the assembly. It was not clear why government officials intervened and interrupted the mass. Archbishop Joseph was celebrating the Eucharist on the seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time with other diocesan priests on the special occasion of the “Archdiocesan Mission Day”. Concelebrants and parishioners did their best to protect Archbishop Joseph and asked the officials to leave the church, allowing the liturgy to end. After this unfortunate incident, the Holy Mass resumed, even though the assembly was stunned and shaken. Catholics in Hanoi and believers of other religions in Vietnam have condemned this flagrant violation of human rights and freedom of worship. “For the first time, I saw local government officials approach the altar and interrupt the Mass without waiting for it to end, as they had done in the past. For the first time we see them addressing priests with violence, disrespecting sacred ministers. This is a brutal and illegal action. This is blasphemy and blatant sacrilege”, said Fr. Peter Nguyen Van Khai, a religious of the Congregation of Redemptorists in Vietnam.
According to a report released in recent days by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom , Vietnam continues to be a “country of particular concern” when it comes to religious freedom, as it allows its citizens to practice their religion freely, but “Government persecution continues to be a harsh reality in the face of independent and unregistered religious groups”, the report notes. In addition, the authorities continue to subject believers and religious freedom advocates to long-term prison sentences.
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