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Cablegate: Das Marciel Meets Hanoi Archbishop, Discusses Church Land

VZCZCXRO2714
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1057 2590850
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 150850Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8454
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH IMMEDIATE 5110
RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS HANOI 001057

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM KIRF PREL PGOV VM

SUBJECT: DAS MARCIEL MEETS HANOI ARCHBISHOP, DISCUSSES CHURCH LAND
DISPUTES

REF: HANOI 1007

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. FOR INTERNAL USG USE. NOT SUITABLE FOR
INTERNET POSTING.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. EAP DAS Scot Marciel had a very warm meeting
with Archbishop Joseph Ngo that focused on Catholic land rights
claims in Hanoi. The Archbishop reviewed the Catholic Church's
long-running attempts to regain its land and the lack of response
from the government. He criticized the police's use of force
against parishioners at the Thai Ha parish prayer vigils and the
public misinformation campaign by local media. The Archbishop
confirmed that priests in the Archdiocese had read from the pulpit a
statement of church support of the Thai Ha parishioners. The stakes
continue to rise, with thousands of Thai Ha parishioners attending
vigils; on September 10, four more parishioners were arrested,
bringing the total number to seven. END SUMMARY.

Archbishop on Catholic Land Rights
----------------------------------

2. (SBU) In a September 10 meeting with visiting EAP DAS Scot
Marciel, Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet explained that the Archdiocese
has applied to reclaim land every year since 1995, but emphasized
that the Church only sought the return of land that is currently
unused or is being used for "insignificant" purposes. He commented
that the GVN built many schools and hospitals on what used to be
Catholic Church property and that the Church has not attempted to
reclaim these properties. What is particularly upsetting to
parishioners is when the government attempts to sell disputed
property for speculative purposes. [Comment: Increasing property
values in part at least explain the general up tick in ownership
disputes, not just those involving former Church land. End
comment.] In 2002, Vietnam's Episcopal Council asked formally for
previously held land to be returned in order to conduct necessary
Church activities, but has never received a response from the GVN.


3. (SBU) Regarding the Thai Ha parish (reftel), the Archbishop
explained that the land belonging to the monastery does not directly
fall under the Archdiocese. He stated that the parish is interested
in finding a resolution to the ongoing dispute. But he said this
was impossible while the state-controlled media continued its
slanderous attacks on the Catholic Church and the Ministry of Public
Security (MPS) continued to hold parishioners in detention. He
stated that under present circumstances, the parish had no other
recourse than to continue the prayer vigils.

4. (SBU) The Archbishop affirmed the fraternal communion that the
Archdiocese has with the Thai Ha parish and criticized the
state-controlled media for spreading misinformation about the parish
and the prayer vigils. He also disparaged the government's use of
force, including electric batons and tear gas, on peaceful
parishioners. In response, all eighty-two priests in the
Archdiocese signed a letter condemning the GVN's brutal actions and
use of force. This letter was read from the pulpit in all churches
within the Archdiocese.

5. (SBU) Turning to the other high-profile Church land dispute in
Hanoi involving the former Papal Nuncio residence at Nha Chung, the
Archbishop noted that the GVN had refused to discuss the property
until last December's large-scale prayer vigils at the site near
Hanoi's largest church. These demonstrations continued until the
beginning of the Tet holiday, when the authorities offered to
discuss the return of Church property. However, once the
parishioners stopped their prayer vigils, negotiations became harsh
and unproductive, the Archbishop remarked.

-------
COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) The Thai Ha issue remains unresolved and both sides
continue to raise the stakes. The twice-daily prayer vigils
continue unabated and attendance has exceeded several thousand
parishioners for the past 12 days. Catholic Bishops from outside
Hanoi have been traveling to the parish with their parishioners to
show solidarity and some have had their buses turned away by the
MPS. On September 10, police arrested a further four parishioners,
nominally in response to the earlier destruction of a brick wall at
the disputed property. According to Thai Ha parish priests, the
total number of parishioners in jail is currently seven.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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