Fr Joseph Shen Guo’an of Wuhan was originally scheduled to be ordained a bishop on June 9.

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM – Thousands of Catholics from Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City gathered at Redemptorist-run churches on June 5 to pray for the country to avoid sea disputes with neighbouring China.

Some 10 days ago, a Chinese patrol boat allegedly destroyed the cable on a state-owned PetroVietnam ship conducting seismic research off Vietnam’s central coast, according to state-run media.

State-run media said the incident was an attack against Vietnam’s sovereignty, accusing China of increasing regional tensions.

In spite of heavy rain, thousands of local Catholics attended a special Mass concelebrated by four Redemptorists at the Redemptorist-run Thai Ha church in Ha Noi.

“We should express our strong patriotism by praying for our country to avoid the threat of Chinese invasion” in the East Sea, parish priest Fr Matthew Vu Khoi Phung said in his homily. The South China Sea is called “East Sea” in Vietnam.

At the end of the Mass, people holding candles gathered in front of the Marian statue in the church compound. They prayed for peace in the country and for government leaders to serve people well.

Some said the ceremony was an opportunity to show their love for their country.

Earlier that day, hundreds staged a rare protest in front of the Chinese Embassy, many carrying banners protesting alleged Chinese maritime ambitions and wearing T-shirts displaying the Vietnamese flag. They also shouted anti-Chinese messages.

Another 2,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, demanding compensation from China for damage done to the Vietnamese ship.

Security forces erected iron bars on streets leading to the consulate and tried to prevent demonstrators from approaching the building.

On June 4, thousands of Catholics also attended a special Mass concelebrated by Fr Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, Redemptorist Superior and other Redemptorists at Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in the city. They prayed for peace in the country. - UCANEWS.COM

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