A priest from Nghe An province has said that security officials barred access to a local chapel on Sunday and beat parishioners attempting to attend Mass.
Father John Baptist Nguyen Dinh Thuc said some 500 officials, most of them not in uniform, converged on the Con Cuong chapel in Yen Khe village and tried to stop him from saying Mass.
“When I arrived there at 2:30 p.m., officials prevented me from entering the chapel and hit me,” he said, adding that about 20 parishioners who tried to protect him were also badly beaten.
“One woman had her head seriously injured and is still receiving medical treatment at a hospital in Hanoi,” Fr Thuc said.
He added that two nuns from the Lovers of the Holy Cross were dragged from the chapel and beaten.
Hundreds of local Catholics and those from neighboring areas intervened to rescue the victims and drive off their attackers, the priest said.
At 4 p.m. he returned to the chapel and held Mass while an estimated 2,000 local villagers stood guard and security officials watched from a distance.
“I will continue to visit [the chapel] and conduct pastoral activities for local people next weekend for the sake of local Catholics,” said Fr Thuc.
The priest, based in Dong Tram some 30 kilometers away, began serving six months ago at the chapel, which was built in 2010 and serves 300 local parishioners.
Church sources have said that in recent weeks authorities have asked local Catholics not to attend chapel services.
The chapel has been the target of previous attacks by authorities, who made threats against parishioners and attempted to cut electricity lines, the sources said.
In November, a home-made bomb damaged the chapel’s roof, windows and flooring.
Priest recovers from attack