Hanoi, Sep 22, 2008 (CNA).- The simmering property disputes between the Catholic Church and the Vietnamese government were again aggravated on Sunday when a Hanoi official accused the Archbishop of Hanoi of inciting riots, making false allegations against the government, ridiculing the law, and disrespecting the nation.

Meanwhile late Sunday night, a street gang made a second attack upon a chapel at Thai Ha Church with no interference from nearby police. In what one priest called a “sort of terrorism” against the Catholic faithful, the gang ransacked the building, destroying statues and books while shouting threats against the lives of clergy and religious, Catholic faithful, and the Archbishop of Hanoi.

On Sunday evening state media reported a statement by Nguyen The Thao, the chairman of People’s Committee of Hanoi City. Father J.B. An Dang told CNA that the chairman criticized Archbishop of Hanoi Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet, accusing the prelate’s Friday letter to the Vietnamese president and prime minister of conveying “distortional information.”

The chairman charged that the letter contained language “challenging the state,” specifically quoting the archbishop’s words “We have our rights to use all of our capabilities to protect our property.”

The property dispute concerns church land confiscated by the Vietnamese government decades ago, including the former papal nunciature and the lands surrounding the Redemptorists’ Thai Ha Church.

Chairman Thao accused the archbishop of treason for “smearing the state” and reported that the archbishop’s actions have “angered people of the capital.”

“These behaviors of offending the law and going against the benefits of state and nation must be punished severely in order to defend our regime, to protect the rights and legitimate benefits of the state and citizens,” the chairman continued.

On Sunday morning thousands of Catholics demonstrated in Hanoi, following a protest of more than 5,000 people the previous evening. The protests were renewed in response to the government’s decision to begin demolishing the former papal nunciature, claiming the land would be used for a library and a park.

The Sunday protest was the largest since the Communist takeover in 1954.

Bishop Joseph Dang Duc Ngan of the Diocese of Lang Son and hundreds of priests led a march of more than ten thousand through the city to the nunciature where they set up an altar and statue of Our Lady in the street, according to Fr. An Dang.

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