Vietnamese government secretly destroys Catholic monastery

From CNA this alarming story:

Vietnamese government secretly destroys Catholic monastery

Hanoi, Vietnam, Jun 11, 2009 / 05:07 am (CNA).- The Vietnamese government has renewed its seizures of Catholic Church properties in the country, demolishing several monasteries to build hotels and tourist resorts. The move has generated fears that the government has adopted a new and “harsh” approach to Catholics.

Last week the government ordered the destruction of the monastery of the Congregation of the Brothers of the Holy Family in Long Xuyen, Vietnam. A spokesman for the diocese said the former two-story home of the priests and religious of the Holy Family Order was destroyed on June 4. The Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres’ monastery in Vinh Long was also recently destroyed.

The Brothers of the Holy Family monastery, built in 1971, was still in good condition and its destruction surprised Catholic officials, Fr. J.B. An Dang reports. The local government did not inform the diocese about its intention to tear down the building and has not announced its intention for the future use of the land.

The monastery’s altar and religious statues were all discarded in a garbage dump. Neither the diocese nor the religious order has been officially informed to go and retrieve the items[Sounds like my days in seminary… when the dumpster was being filled with vestments, vessels and altar stones.  Save the liturgy, save the world.]

The Congregation of the Brothers of The Holy Family of Banam was founded by Bishop Valentin Herrgott, the then-Apostolic Vicar of Phnom-Penh, Cambodia in 1931. The order moved to Long Xuyen in Vietnam after a 1970 coup against Cambodian monarch Norodom Sihanouk created security concerns.

In 1984 all brothers of the congregation were arrested and charged with “anti-revolutionary activities.” Their monastery was seized and they have been jailed for years without a trial. [Since… 1984?]

The congregation has repeatedly asked for the return of its monastery and has protested the unjust detention of its members.

Especially over the past two years, Vietnamese Catholics have sought the return of church properties confiscated by the government. They have met with defeat and frustration, Fr. An Dang says.

On May 21, Nguyen Thanh Xuan, the government’s deputy chief of religious affairs, announced that the state "has no intention of returning any property or goods to the Catholic Church or any other religious organization."

According to Fr. An Dang, the destruction of the Long Xuyen monastery and Xuan’s statement have increased concerns that the government has applied a “new, harsh policy on Church’s properties in which there would be no more dialogue.”

The government’s new policy approach might act “as if the State is the true owner with full authority on Church’ assets.”


Let us, who live in happier places, keep always in mind both the suffering of our brothers and sisters elsewhere and also that our liberties can be lost.  If otherwise good people simply stand by and do nothing, even as the signs of the times reveal their trend, evil triumphs.

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  1. jarhead462 says:

    Horrible- I pray for them.
    Place is a sore spot for this jarhead.

    Semper Fi.

  2. Tom says:

    Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet and as a written language owes its existence to the Jesuits

  3. ustalumnus says:

    “[Sounds like my days in seminary… when the dumpster was being filled with vestments, vessels and altar stones. Save the liturgy, save the world.]”

    – citation needed. [Another seminarian who was the sacristan at the time was directed to put into the dumpster many sets of vestments, vessels and even altar stones. We rescued them and sent things to the missions, and kept some for ourselves. I still have some of the vestments and an altar stone from that sad experience. The bad old days, now passing into memory.]

  4. Mitch_WA says:

    I pray for the eventual relief from persecution for the church in Vietnam.

    Father what you mention about liturgical items going in the dumpster reminds me of what the “roving MC”(a lay guy who knows more then practically anyone else about liturgy in this area) of my diocese told me. The Jesuits tore out their old high alter in their residence chapel at their residence here at my college they were going to throw out the alter stone, but this roving MC saved it, and to keep it from further destruction he placed it in a bubble wrap envolope and labeled it “historical artifact – do not destroy” else it would have been many years ago.

  5. laurazim says:

    Surely we must all be aware that saints are in the making even in this modern day, and not always quietly. Let us never forget those who continue to suffer under persecution for their steadfast faith and obedience to the Church. May God have mercy on their tormentors.

  6. Ohio Annie says:

    I’m just a convert and don’t know anything but doesn’t the altar stone contain relics of saints?

  7. LCB says:

    Ohio Annie,

    It should. I suspect that altar did contain the relic of a saint. However, many modern wooden table altars do not.

  8. LCB says:

    We should always be vigilant. It can happen here, just like anywhere else.

  9. Cromagnum (The cave man in service to the Everlasting Cave Man) says:

    In the short temporal time, they are suffering, and need our prayers to receive the graces to persevere in the face of cruel adversity.

    In the bigger picture, isn’t it often that the Church grows when persecuted, that the suffering and the martyrs provide the seeds and fertilizer from which the Church blossoms? The demons we face are so short sighted.
    Its not that we would pray for more persecution, but rather it has been the natural outgrowth of such actions.

    LCB: Yes it can happen here, our persecution by Modernism erodes, rather than creating martyrs.
    However, the physical assault could begin if the enemies of the Church become emboldened.

  10. AP says:

    “Let us, who live in happier places, keep always in mind both the suffering of our brothers and sisters elsewhere and also that our liberties can be lost.”

    Even in Pittsburg?

  11. Derik Castillo says:

    Pater noster…
    Ave Maria…

  12. Ohio Annie says:

    I just read The Red Book of Chinese Martyrs. It is heartbreaking. A good novel on the subject is The Secret Cardinal.

    We in the states like to complain about our petty discriminations and people being mean about our beliefs but that is nothing next to being in solitary for 30 years or more. Or being tortured. I pray for people in China, Vietnam and elsewhere.

    I love relics. I always make a point to find out “who is under the altar here.” One parish has Maria Goretti and Ignatius of Antioch. My Dominican parish has a whole bunch of Dominican relics in a big reliquary under the altar and perhaps 10 other relics in a reliquary case. Including a 1st class relic of St. Patrick.

    A kind priest gave me a second class relic of Katherine Drexel, handy for this investor who sometimes needs urging to “give it away.”

  13. Andrew, medievalist says:

    “Sounds like my days in seminary…when the dumpster was being filled with vestments, vessels and altar stones.”

    But Father, at least in the sad case of the Vietnamese monastery, it wasn’t fellow Catholics perpetrating a little iconclasm, but agents of a Communist government. Yours sounds like the story of a local (nameless) religious house’s dumpster, from which first-class relics were rescued.

    Prayers for these suffering monks, and persecuted Christians everywhere, will be offered at adoration tonight.

  14. Frank H. says:

    AP –

    Does the Church Brew Works offer a Friday night fish fry?

  15. Cathy says:


    Very sad. Especially painful from the website: “By far, the most breathtaking element is the position of the brew house on the altar. Because the altar was built as a centerpiece of the church, the steel and copper tanks gleaming in the celestial blue backdrop is nothing less than captivating. This extraordinary view is only paralleled by the quality and taste of our beer.”

  16. Christina says:

    Cathy, the actual photos of the beer tanks on the altar are even more painful. They brought tears to my eyes – and not in a good way. I wish I hadn’t looked.

  17. J. Wong says:

    “[Sounds like my days in seminary… when the dumpster was being filled with vestments, vessels and altar stones. Save the liturgy, save the world.]”

    How true….I have an altar stone that a friend from the seminary rescued from the dumpster.

  18. Anthony in TX says:

    I sent this story to a Vietnamese Catholic coworker of mine. He told me this is not unusual. These “anti-revolutionaries” are publicly beaten. Many are sent to re-education camps and are made to voice their love of the government.

    He went on to speak of the tremendous faith of the Vietnamese. Public forms of piety bring the beatings, but they continue because of their love of Christ and his Church. The theft of property means very little to them now.

    Please pray for them.

  19. I’ve never heard of an altar stone before. Does every church have one? Where is it usually placed, inlaid into the altar or under it? I’ll have to ask my pastor where ours is!

  20. LCB says:


    It is an ancient and venerable tradition dating back to the earliest days of the Church.

    An altar stone was the “keystone” of an altar, and contained within it was the relic of a saint, so that mass was almost always offered over the remains of a saint. Some wooden altars still have them, but many now do not.

    If your Church has any old unused altars, go up to them and you’ll see a square piece carved in the center, probably cemented in. That ought to contain a relic.

  21. Latekate says:

    I can’t believe they put the brewing tanks on the altar. You’d think beer worshippers would have better taste. What a sad thing to have to happen to such a lovely church.

    Anthony: “Many are sent to re-education camps and are made to voice their love of the government.”

    The state will have no gods before it. I’m convinced these people have a form of madness, certainly from illogical minds.

    I will pray for the persecuted Christians and for a straying people who let their beautiful, sacred places of worship be turned into beer joints, excuse me…”brewpubs”.

  22. Here is the contact info for the Vietnamese embassy in D.C.; letters and faxes of protest would not be out of line. Perhaps this could be a project within our parishes.

    1233 20th St NW, Suite 400 – Washington, DC 20036 – tel. 202.861.0737 – fax 202.861.0917

  23. Ohio Annie says:

    Laurinda, Putting the relics of saints in or under the altar is supposed to remind us of the vision of Heaven in the Apocalypse where the white-robed martyrs are under the altar. In fact the relics that are put in churches are supposed to be of martyred saints, according to a source I know who usually is up on such things.

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