Thousands of Catholics in California have been showing their solidarity to the Church in Vietnam over the weekend, while tensions between the Church and government over confiscated Church properties increased.
More than two thousands parishioners of St. Maria Goretti in San José, California, attended a Candlelight Vigil on Saturday to pray for the Church in Vietnam. In the Mass concelebrated by five priests, there were special prayers for Hanoi Catholics who have protested for more than a month for the return of properties that belonged to parish churches, seminaries, and the old apostolic delegation illegally seized in the past.
A slide show of ongoing peaceful prayer protests of Hanoi Catholics, despite government threats hinting that a crackdown was likely, caught the congregation’s emotions. Many wept as they saw images of Hanoi Catholics have been praying earnestly not only for the justice to triumph but also for the conversion of those who have been treating them as second-class citizens or even a national security threat
“I feel proud of my brothers and sisters in Hanoi”, said a parishioner, “They have become increasingly vocal about past and current religious freedom abuses”. “Their fight for justice is peaceful yet determined. They bear a strong public witness of the Gospel’s message even when they are forced to stand up and confront with a brutal dictatorship system”, said another.
Parishioners including a large group of American Catholics signed petitions to President Bush, politicians, and Bishops to urge the government of Vietnam to meet certain benchmarks consistent with international religious freedom standards and find equitable solutions on returning confiscated properties to religious groups.
More than two thousand people also attended a candlelight Vigils at St Elizabeth Church, Milpitas, lead by Fr Victor Tran and at the Church of Our Lady of Assumption in Claremont, Los Angeles