Catholics and Buddhists pray to cheat hangman
More than 1000 people filled Australia's biggest church yesterday to pray for the life of Nguyen Tuong Van, the 25 year old convicted Australian drug trafficker on death row in Singapore.
The Age reports that the Catholic faithful joined Buddhist monks who chanted mantras while St Paul's Letter to the Corinthians spoken in Vietnamese echoed inside St Patrick's Cathedral, East Melbourne.
With all legal avenues exhausted, all that remains is diplomacy by political leaders and the tireless campaigning by Nguyen's supporters.
In a prayer yesterday, Fr Peter Hansen asked God to change the "hearts of stone" in Singapore, who have refused clemency, and last week rejected appeals to reconsider. Fr Peter Hansen told the congregation they had gathered to seek compassion and mercy for Nguyen, his mother, Kim, and his family, and to pray that "those with power over Van will exercise that power with compassion and wisdom".
Ms Nguyen was flanked by Elizabeth Lasry, the wife of Nguyen's Melbourne QC, Lex Lasry, and Russell Thirgood, president of Amnesty International Australia.
After a chanting of the mantra for the preservation of life by monks of Melbourne's Quang Minh Temple, Fr Hansen compared Nguyen to Catholic martyr Sir Thomas More as he awaited execution for alleged treason in 1535.
As Sir Thomas did, Nguyen sits in a cell and "awaits the judgement of those who claim authority to take his life", he said.
His voice raised throughout the cathedral, Fr Hansen declared "for the entire world to hear" that hanging Nguyen would save not one life, dissuade one drug courier, assist one addict or avert one tragedy.
"We, the people who are here today in this great cathedral, we are the people of Van's land," he said.
Ms Nguyen, her son's close friends Kelly Ng and Bronwyn Lew and other supporters offered the prayers of intercession.
Richmond Parish Priest Fr Peter Norden, who asked Pope Benedict last week to intervene on Nguyen's behalf, said such entreaties were not "megaphone diplomacy".
"It is a clear, honest statement in the belief of the dignity of all life," he said.
Fr Norden spoke not far from a plaque set in a red rose garden for the former archbishop of Melbourne Daniel Mannix, which reminded people that, among other injustices, he rejected capital punishment.
Catholics and Buddhists pray to cheat hangman (The Age 7/11/05)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Former Parish and School seek the Pope's intervention for Van Nguyen's "Right to Life" (Saint Ignatius Church, Richmond, 6/11/05)
Catholic Parish of St Ignatius, Richmond
St Ignatius' Primary School, Richmond
Centacare Melbourne urges Govt to save Nguyen (CathNews 28/10/05)
Papal intervention for death row drug trafficker (CathNews 25/10/05)
Prayers, rallies against hanging (The Advertiser 7/11/05)
Ad tells of fate awaiting Nguyen (The Age 6/11/05)
Prayer for man on death row in Singapore (The Age/Australian Associated Press 6/11/05)
Plea to Pope last chance for condemned Van (The Australian 7/11/05)
Nguyen's priest appeals to Pope (The Courier Mail 7/11/05)
Prayers to be held for condemned man (Sunday Mail/Australian Associated Press 6/11/05)
Priest's call to PM over death sentence (Catholic Weekly 6/11/05)
7 Nov 2005