Vietnam warns Catholics against mass protests

”]The Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Benedict the 16th, and Vietnams prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung. [Reuters]Vietnam’s prime minister has warned Roman Catholic leaders the communist state will not tolerate mass protests by followers demanding the return of seized church land.

Prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung criticised Catholic mass gatherings held in two parishes of the capital Hanoi in recent months, in talks with Vietnam Episcopal Council leader Bishop Nguyen Van Nhon.

He told the bishop if those activities do not come to an end, they will have an adverse impact on the good ties between the state and the church and the relationship between Vietnam and the Vatican.

Catholics started their prayer vigils late last year for the return of several properties seized after the communists took power from the French in North Vietnam in 1954.

Police have in recent weeks cracked down on the vigils, arrested several protesters and locked down the disputed Hanoi properties, where the government is building public parks and a library.

Mr Dung thanked Bishop Nhon for not encouraging the protests, but charged that Hanoi Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet had instigated the gatherings and shown a “lack of respect and cooperation with the Hanoi administration.

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