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Vietnam Catholics oppose new hospital on monastery land

The state-run Dong Da General Hospital in Hanoi is located on properties borrowed by city authorities from the Redemptorists
The state-run Dong Da General Hospital stands on a former Redemptorist monastery borrowed by city authorities.

The state-run Dong Da General Hospital stands on a former Redemptorist monastery borrowed by city authorities. (Photo: nhathothaiha.net)

Published: May 01, 2024 03:36 AM GMT
Updated: May 01, 2024 04:19 AM GMT

Redemptorists in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, have objected to the construction of a new building on their former properties, which city authorities borrowed over half a century ago.

“We strongly oppose the construction on our land,” said the Redemptorist-run Thai Ha Parish in an April 26 statement about constructing a new hospital next to the state-run Dong Da General Hospital.

The hospital is a former Redemptorist monastery that the government “borrowed” in 1959 and 1973. For decades, local Catholics have demanded its return. The authorities have not officially confiscated it. Therefore, “we are the legal owners of the properties,” the statement said.

The new project, estimated to cost 265 billion dongs (US$10 million) was approved by the People's Committee of Hanoi City last year. Construction will start this year and will be completed in two years.

According to the Redemptorists, they bought the 61,455 square meter plot in 1928 and built several facilities there after landing in Vietnam in 1925.

They are planning to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their arrival in May 2025.

Redemptorist Father Joseph Nguyen Van Hoi, the pastor of Thai Ha Parish, on April 27 urged the city authorities to relocate Dong Da Hospital to a new location as part of plans to move infectious hospitals from the city center to the suburbs.

“It is unreasonable for a hospital with infectious disease departments to be built in a densely populated area and next to a church where large numbers of people attend daily Mass,” he said.

Father Hoi also called on local people to pray for the authorities to care about their spiritual needs and return their historically important properties. Local Catholics will hold a novena starting on May 1.

Joseph Nguyen from Thai Ha parish said they plan to petition local authorities to stop the project on the former church properties and return all facilities as a “clear way to hold local Christians in respect when Vietnam tries to improve bilateral relations with the Holy See.”

The communist country invited Pope Francis to visit the local people, and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, paid a pastoral visit to the Southeast Asian country from April 9 to 14.

Nguyen also reminded the authorities that "actions speak louder than words.”

“We try our best to protect the church properties. Even if we fail, other people know that the government grabs them illegally,” he added.

He said local people expect Archbishop Marek Zalewski, the first pontifical resident representative to Vietnam, to "do something" to help the situation.

Last November, Father Hoi, head of the Hanoi-based Redemptorists, asked city authorities to "stop the renovation work on our monastery” and punish those "who flagrantly damaged our legitimate religious property."

In 2008, local Catholics went on protest marches demanding city authorities return the parish’s 13,000-square-meter former plot next to the monastery after they planned to sell it to individuals. As a result, the government had to use it as a public park.

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