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Benedictines condemn desecration of cross in central Vietnam

Around 200 people broke into the monastery and used bulldozers to destroy property

ucanews.com correspondent, Hue City

ucanews.com correspondent, Hue City

Published: June 28, 2016 07:21 AM GMT

Updated: June 28, 2016 07:56 AM GMT

Benedictines condemn desecration of cross in central Vietnam

"Some of them who called themselves officials and public security officers took action to desecrate the cross," said Father Anthony Nguyen Van Duc, Superior of the Benedictine monastery in Thien An. (Photo supplied) 

The head of the Order of St. Benedict in central Vietnam has condemned government authorities for destroying their belongings and desecrating a Benedictine cross.

According to Father Anthony Nguyen Van Duc, Superior of the Benedictine monastery in Thien An, around 200 people broke into the monastery on June 20 and used bulldozers to destroy property.

"Some of them who called themselves officials and public security officers took action to desecrate the cross," said Father Duc.

Following the incident, on June 24 Father Duc issued a letter of denunciation, which he sent to the People’s Committee of Thua Thien Hue Province, the Archbishop of Hue, the U.S. embassy and European Union diplomats in Vietnam.

In the letter, Father Duc states that the People’s Committee of Thuy Bang Commune, in Huong Thuy Town, Thua Thien Hue Province, had earlier issued a statement accusing the monastery of illegal deforestation. The alleged transgressions took place in a pine forest that the Benedictines maintain they own and cultivate legally.

Father Duc charged the government with "committing a breach of trust and disrespecting Benedictines’ basic freedom protected by law." He alleges that government officials have repeatedly forced entry into the monastery without any proof of authorisation.

Father Duc alleges that on June 14 provincial officials invited representatives of the Benedictines to a meeting to deal with the monastery’s petitions relating to the deforestation charges. The meeting was to be held on June 16.  

However, the Benedictines requested a delay until mid-July, so that they could finish important ceremonies and organise a representative from the Benedictine Mother House in Rome to attend. They also asked the government to ensure the monastery’s safety and religious freedom until the meeting.

Father Duc says that, despite agreeing to a delay on June 16, officials attacked the monastery four days later. He demands the government take action against those who desecrated the cross, and maintains that the Benedictines have never encroached others’ land.

The area in question is part of 107 hectares of forest that the Benedictines planted in 1940. After 1975, the communist government "borrowed" 57 hectares of land from the monastery and assigned it to a forestry company.

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In 2000, the government confiscated much of the remaining land and assigned it to a tourism company. However the government allowed the Benedictines to keep six hectares, including the monastery where the disputed trees were located.

The treatment of church property is a controversial issue in Vietnam. After the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975, the government forcibly confiscated church lands. Many properties went unused and while churches have sought their return in recent years, the government has instead attempted to sell some of this land for profit.

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