Catholics in Vietnam have expressed “outrage” over the interruption of the celebration of Mass in a church in the northern province of Hoa Binh on Sunday, February 20.
“The worshippers were pretty taken aback by the incident … when Vietnamese officials wearing their helmets disrupted the 10 a.m. Mass celebrated by [Archbishop Joseph Vũ Văn Thiên of Hanoi],” read a report posted on VietCatholic News.
“It was pretty confronting and really troubling to see the liturgy being stopped by several officials,” the report quoted the archdiocese saying.
Officials of the communist party in the area interrupted the Sunday morning service inside the Vu Ban parish church, said the report, adding that “they jumped (on) the altar, yelling at the archbishop.”
The officials ordered the prelate to immediately stop the celebration and to disperse the congregation.
The archbishop was concelebrating Mass several priests to celebrate the “Missionary Day of the Archdiocese.”
The celebration continued after parishioners convinced the local officials to leave.
The incident happened following the killing of Dominican priest Joseph Tran Ngoc Thanh in Dak Mot, about 40 miles northwest of Kon Tum, on January 29.
The disruption of the celebration of the Mass “stunned both Catholics and believers of other religions … for its audacity and blatancy in terms of violation of religious and human rights,” said the report.
“This is the first time I have ever seen local government officials approaching the altar to disrupt the Holy Mass without waiting for it to end before harassing the priests as they used to do in the past,” said Redemptorist priest Peter Nguyen Van Khai.
“This is such uncultured, lawless action. It is a blatant blasphemy or sacrilege,” said the priest.
Vietnam remains a “country of particular concern” in terms of allowing its citizens to freely practice their religion, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
In a report last week, the commission said the country continues to suppress the followers of religions banned by the government.