Demonstrators marching to the Chinese Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.
Thousands of Catholics from Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City gathered at Redemptorist-run churches yesterday to pray for the country to avoid sea disputes with neighboring China. Ten days ago, a Chinese patrol boat allegedly destroyed the cable on a state-owned PetroVietnam ship conducting seismic research some 120 nautical miles off Vietnam's central coast, according to state-run media. State-run media said the incident was an attack against Vietnam's sovereignty, accusing China of increasing regional tensions. In spite of heavy rain, thousands of local people attended a special Mass concelebrated by four Redemptorists at the Redemptorist-run Thai Ha church in Ha Noi. “We should express our strong patriotism by praying for our country to avoid the threat of Chinese invasion” in the East Sea, Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, parish priest, said in his homily. The South China Sea is called "East Sea" in Vietnam. At the end of the Mass, people holding candles gathered in front of the Marian statue in the compound of the church. They prayed for peace in the country and for government leaders to serve people well. Some people said the ceremony was an opportunity to show their love of the country. Earlier yesterday, hundreds of local people staged a rare protest in front of the Chinese Embassy, many wearing Vietnamese flag T-shirts and carrying banners protesting against Chinese maritime ambitions. They also shouted anti-Chinese messages. Another 2,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate in in Ho Chi Minh City, demanding China compensate for damage to the Vietnamese ship. Security forces erected iron bars on streets leading to the consulate and tried to prevent demonstrators from approaching the building. On June 4, thousands of Catholics also attended a special Mass concelebrated by Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, Redemptorist Superior and other Redemptorists at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in the city. They prayed for peace of the country. Related reports: Redemptorists launch campaign against government mining projects