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ICC Note:

The bishop of Kontum was stopped from attending Christmas mass in central Vietnam by officials after receiving assurance the visit would be allowed.

12/27/2010 Vietnam (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese authorities have banned Mgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, Bishop of Kontum from celebrating Christmas mass with the faithful of the village of Lang Son in K’Bang county (central Vietnam), the region of the Montagnards. The ban was imposed despite the fact that the government had been informed of the event.

In a pastoral letter dated Dec. 22, Mgr. Michael Hoang stated that he had discussed with Vietnam government if he, as the ordinary bishop of the diocese, could carry out his pastoral duties during this Christmas period without any obstacles from the local government. “Authorities at various levels assured me I could do so,” he wrote.

However, at 10 am on Christmas Day, local officials at Son Lang backed by police and militia banned him from celebrating the Mass. “If you want to celebrate your Mass you can do so, but not for everyone here. You have to go to each family and each Mass cannot last for more than one hour,” he was told. He gave his blessings to the congregation and cancelled the Mass as a gesture of protest.

Among the possible reasons for the ban is an attempt to hamper the prelate’s hugely successful evangelization work. Bishop Hoang, who speaks French, English and the local languages of ethnic Montagnards (Bana, Jarai, Sedang …), since the day of his installation in August 2003, has witnessed a great wave of conversions: 30 000 Montagnards converted to Catholicism in 2008 and another 20 thousand in 2009.

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