Call comes after renovation work began on facility which is used by the communist government as a state-run hospital
The state-run Dong Da General Hospital, a former Redemptorist monastery, is under renovation which the missionaries oppose. (Photo: nhathothaiha.net)
Redemptorists in Vietnam have voiced opposition to renovation work on their former monastery in the capital Hanoi — now a state-run hospital — and called on the communist government to return the property instead.
Father Joseph Nguyen Van Hoi, head of the Hanoi-based Redemptorists, asked city authorities to "take measures to stop the renovation work on our monastery and return it to its original state."
In his complaint, dated Nov. 11, to Tran Sy Thanh, chairperson of the People’s Committee of Hanoi, and other city agencies, Hoi said the government should punish those "who flagrantly damaged our legitimate religious property," which is now called Dong Da General Hospital.
Redemptorists began using the site as their novitiate and study center in 1928 after they arrived in Vietnam in 1925. They are planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their arrival in 2025.
According to the Redemptorists, they bought the 61,455 square meter plot in 1928 and built several facilities there.
Hoi called on the government to “return the buildings so that we use them for religious needs.”
"We never sold them,” the priest said, adding that Dong Da district authorities illegally forced Redemptorists to hand the monastery to them.
The Redemptorist-run Thai Ha parish council has met with the hospital management who refused to halt the renovation work.
Hoi, pastor of the Thai Ha church next to the hospital, said local Catholics are deeply upset with the renovation going ahead without their permission.
The priest said that in the past the management used to seek approval from the Redemptorists before they carried out repairs.
He said it blatantly violates religious freedom and discourages local people from putting their trust in the communist government as the Vatican and Vietnam are trying to foster diplomatic ties.
Catholics are expecting the government to ease its religious policies and return the seized Church facilities after President Vo Van Thuong met Pope Francis and signed a landmark pact on July 27 this year.
The priest said the hospital started the renovation work on Nov. 6 when Redemptorists were attending their annual retreat, away from their monastery in Hanoi. The work is expected to end by Dec. 15.
Redemptorist Father John Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong said that the government also borrowed another building to treat people who were injured in the Vietnam War in 1972.
They have not returned it, he said.
The communist government confiscated all Church facilities in the north after the communist took power there in 1954 and in the south after 1975.
The communists viewed the local Church as having historical ties that were too close with Vietnam's former colonial masters, France.
Although the government has returned a few facilities in recent years, local people want the government to return all seized Church properties.
The Redemptorist mission was founded by St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori in 1732 in Italy for the purpose of working among neglected rural people.
Three Canadian Redemptorist missionaries came to Vietnam in 1925 and they built monasteries, schools, hostels, sport centers and other facilities in Hanoi, Hue, Da Lat, Nha Trang and Sai Gon. There are 370 Redemptorists working in 21 out of 27 dioceses in the country.
In recent years, they have focused their attention on human rights, social justice and environmental protection.
As a result, six Redemptorists have been banned from leaving the country by the government for speaking out against social injustice, violations of religious freedom, and illegal land grabbing.
Full diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the Vatican are yet to be established. However, a non-resident papal representative has been paying regular visits to Vietnam since 2011.
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