Catholics brave Communist repression to celebrate Easter

In his homily, the prelate called on people to “pray for us” so “your prayers may help us lead God’s flock.”

April 25 2014, 6:52 PM
Catholics brave Communist repression to celebrate Easter

The strong faith of Catholics in the remote and mountainous areas of the Diocese of Kontum in central Vietnam saw them braving the fear of arrest and celebrating the Holy Week and Easter.

“The faithful can attend Mass only twice a year,” said Bishop Michael Duc Hoang Oanh of Kontum, “on Christmas and Easter.”

Hence, through the rites of the Holy Week, he wanted to bear witness to the solidarity of the whole Vietnamese Catholic Church that often faced persecution from the communist regime.

Bishop Hoang Oanh together with Bishop Emeritus Peter Tran Thanh Chung of Kontum and more than 130 priests co-celebrated a mass on April 16 in Dak Mot District. About hundred nuns and more than 3,000 worshippers attended the service.  

In his homily, the prelate called on people to “pray for us” so “your prayers may help us lead God’s flock.”

On Holy Thursday, Bishop Hoang Oanh celebrated Mass in the town of Kanat in K’Bang District, where the authorities have long targeted the local Catholic community.

Bishop Hoàng Oanh celebrated the service in a home provided by a faithful with about a hundred people crammed in an area of approximately 100 square metres.

The Catholic community has lobbied the local administration for a long time to get a permit to build a place of worship, but was always refused.

K’Bang District authorities “make life difficult for the faithful,” the prelate explained, and many Catholics “do not openly show their religious affiliation for fear of retaliation.”

When priests come to celebrate “underground Masses”, the authorities lie in waiting “to arrest priests and faithful.”

The Catholic community of Lang Son, some 54 families, also faces similar difficulties.

However, if the authorities allowed real religious freedom and the opportunity to build a place of worship, “the number of faithful would be in the hundreds of thousands,” the bishop said.

Catholics represent more than 10% of the population in the area of the diocese and many of them belong to ethnic minorities.

Religious freedom has been steadily declining in the country. More controls and restrictions on worship came into effect with Decree 92 in accordance with the rules and directives imposed by the Communist government and the one party state.

The authorities have targeted religious leaders, including Buddhists and Catholics. The crackdown also affects individuals who claim the right to religious freedom and respect for citizens’ civil rights.

Source: CBCP News