A Mass in progress at Ling La Church in Kon Tum province on March 5. (Photo: Father Peter Nguyen Van Dong)
A diocese in Vietnam has strongly protested against government authorities for breaking up a Mass held in a house.
In an official letter to Kon Tum provincial and Ngoc Hoi district officials in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, Kontum diocese strongly condemned what it called the “heinous offense against the sanctity of the Mass.”
“Their actions are deeply distressing and hurting our brothers and sisters from the subparish, as well as all priests and laypeople in the diocese and other places," Father Peter Le Van Hung, head of the Office of the Kontum Bishop’s House, said in a statement on March 27.
Local government officials, accompanied by security staff, stormed a house where Father Francis Xavier Le Tien was celebrating a Mass attended by many Catholics on March 22.
The officials accused Tien, pastor of Dak Giac parish, of celebrating religious services at an unrecognized chapel.
Religious activities are restricted in the mountainous province of Kon Tum, home to tens of ethnic groups. Many in the province, bordering Laos and Cambodia, live in poverty and far away from parish churches.
Most churches in the area were ruined during the Vietnam War (1955-1975).
Father Hung called on authorities “to recognize temporary chapels in the province.”
He said the diocese registered its protest after Bishop Aloisius Nguyen Hung Vi of Kontum visited Tien and local Catholics to show his solidarity.
Kontum diocese covers the two provinces of Gia Lai and Kon Tum, serving 380,000 Catholics out of a population of 2.5 million.