Vietnamese Catholics challenge Communist control

Catholics in Vietnam are challenging their country's communist government in a bold, yet quiet move calling for Church land to be returned.

AP reports Church leaders and faithful have been gathering daily in front of the old Vatican embassy in Hanoi - one of many properties seized by the communists after 1954 - in a silent yet powerful statement.

The Church wants the government to hand back the 2.5-acre lot - a property worth millions of dollars.

Father Nguyen Khac Que, from the Hanoi province said it was a ''tragedy'' their land was taken away.

Although the dispute could raise church-state tensions, it also offers dramatic testimony to how much these relations have improved in Vietnam recently.

Five years ago, police would almost certainly have jailed the ''protestors''.

Peter Hansen of the Catholic Theological College in Melbourne, Australia says he believes there is now a ''sufficient feeling of comfort on both sides that the Church feels it can air its grievances publicly and the state feels it can tolerate them.''

Vietnam's Catholic Church, which counts 6 million members, was established by missionaries and grew during French colonial rule in Vietnam. It is the second-largest faith in predominantly Buddhist Vietnam.

Catholic-Communist Land Fight in Vietnam (AP 24/01/08)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Catholic Theological College Melbourne
Communist Party of Vietnam

25 Jan 2008