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Catholics want envoy's help in disputes

Diocese asks pontifical representative to press government into returning Church land

Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, local Church leaders and Catholics offered incense in front of the tombs of Martyrs Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, local Church leaders and Catholics offered incense in front of the tombs of Martyrs
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hai Duong
  • Vietnam
  • June 14, 2011
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Catholics in Hai Phong diocese have asked the country’s non-resident pontifical representative to press the government for the return of Church properties.

The issue of the return of “nationalized” ecclesiastical land has clouded Church relations with the Vietnamese government for years.

The plea came during a three-day visit to the diocese by Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, which ended on June 11.

One of his stops was at the tombs of four missioners at the Shrine of Martyrs in Hai Duong province, where three Spanish Dominicans were killed for their faith on November 1, 1861 and one Vietnamese catechist was also killed on December 6 that year. They were canonized on June 19, 1988.

Local Catholics are celebrating the 150th anniversary of their deaths from November 6, 2010 to December 31, 2011.

Father Joseph Duong Huu Tinh, the rector, told the archbishop that after the shrine was bombed by US forces in 1967, the state-run railway “borrowed” part of the land, while local people illegally took the rest and built houses.

“Now 261 families live at the shrine,” he said.

“We really would like you to talk to the government to get them to relocate these people so we can rebuild the shrine,” Father Tinh told Archbishop Girelli.

The Italian archbishop promised to do what he could.

The issue of the return of “nationalized” ecclesiastical land has clouded Church relations with the Vietnamese government for years.

Bishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hai Phong said local government authorities have agreed to move people from the shrine and allowed the diocese to rebuild the shrine.

However, he added, the local Church could not afford to compensate the families for their houses.

Meanwhile, on a visit to Ha Long city, a lay leader asked the archbishop to persuade the government into returning land where an old church was destroyed so that they can build a new church.

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