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VIETNAM/ A mother sets herself on fire for her Christian daughter, imprisoned by the Communist regime

Father BERNARDO CERVELLERA describes the situation of the Catholic Church in Vietnam, where the government has a tight grip on everything, down to each pastoral visit.

Farmers in Vietnam   (Infophoto) Farmers in Vietnam (Infophoto)

A woman, Dang Thi Kim Kieng, killed herself by lighting herself on fire to protest against the imprisonment of her daughter. This happened in Bac Lieu, a southern province of Vietnam. The woman chose a significant place, the government offices, to give prominence to her gesture. Her daughter, Maria Ta Phong Tan, a former police officer who is quite well known in his country, and who converted to Catholicism as an adult, was arrested on charges of subversive activity and defamatory writings against the government. This is an accusation that, in a country under a repressive Communist regime, can be triggered very easily. She now faces up to twenty years in prison. Father Bernardo Cervellera, editor of Asianews, contacted by Ilsussidiario.net, describes this as a prime example of the suffocating control that the regime maintains over the population: “In a country where there is censorship of everything, any criticism, even a note that is benevolent toward the party, it is clear that the attitude of this government is dictatorial. The point is that the government definitely does not want to find themselves in front of someone who tells them that they have done something wrong”.

Father Cervellera
, what is the situation of the Church like in Vietnam? Can one compare it to the situation in China? For example, are the bishops appointed by the central government?
No, the situation is slightly better than in China. Currently, the Holy See always has the last word, though the government, within a shortlist of candidates proposed by the Vietnamese Church and the Vatican, states their preferences. In China today, instead, there is no such possibility, and all nominations are carried out by the government.

Are missionaries
free to work in Vietnam?
There are people working, but they are not officially missionaries. For example, there are people who work as lay people in various organizations, for example in social services, who come from abroad.

does the local church do?
They do the same activities as all other churches. The difference is that each activity, the masses, the catechism, the meetings of the faithful, is completely controlled by the government. The Vietnamese religious regulations, to be clear, are established by the regime, as well as the list of things for which one must ask permission.

Do you have to ask
permission for everything?
Here is an example: a bishop must ask for permission even to make a pastoral visit to his diocese. Thus, the government exercises a huge amount of control over the life of the Church and the faithful.

Can you describe the missionary activity of the local Church?