HANOI – 19 September 2008
JB An Dang
Bishop Jean Marie Henri Legrez, OP of Saint-Claude diocese in France has joined protestors in Vietnam calling for the return of confiscated Catholic Church property.
Bishop Jean Legrez came to Thai Ha on early Sunday morning when more than 15,000 Catholics from Hanoi and nearby provinces were travelling to Thai Ha by any means they could reach. A Redemptorist priest guided him to the land in dispute where he joined thousands of protestors in prayers.
He was also briefed on the tension in the area caused by the presence of hundreds of police armed with stun guns. The presence of Bishop Jean Legrez, the first foreign bishop to join the protest, helped to calm down many protestors who were wondering why police were deployed at an abnormal large scale in and around Thai Ha.
“I don’t think they would dare to attack us in front of a foreigner, especially a bishop,” a student told Asia-News. “I feel safe and concentrate better to my prayers,” she added.
Major-General Nguyen Duc Nhanh, Director of the Hanoi Police Agency, and many high ranking police officials were on the site to reconnoitre and direct police units to film protestors as an obvious intimidation tactic.
Police were in high alert after a sudden protest at Hanoi former nunciature on Saturday morning. They stopped every bus travelling from other provinces to the capital. Many faithful had to walk several miles after their buses were forced to turn back.