US embassy cable - 01HOCHIMINHCITY754

VIETNAM'S CATHOLIC CO-REDEMPTRIX ORDER

Identifier: 01HOCHIMINHCITY754
Wikileaks: View 01HOCHIMINHCITY754 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Ho Chi Minh City
Created: 2001-06-20 02:22:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PHUM KIRF PINR VM RELFREE HUMANR
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


2001HOCHI00754 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ9781

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ACTION EAP-00   

INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AID-00   AMAD-00  ACQ-00   CIAE-00  INL-00   
      DINT-00  DOTE-00  SRPP-00  DS-00    EB-00    EUR-00   OIGO-00  
      FAAE-00  FBIE-00  UTED-00  H-01     TEDE-00  INR-00   IO-00    
      L-00     MOFM-05  MOF-03   NSAE-00  OIC-02   OPIC-01  PRS-00   
      P-00     SP-00    SS-00    STR-00   TEST-00  TRSE-00  USIE-00  
      DSCC-00  PRM-01   DRL-02   G-00     NFAT-00  SAS-00     /015W
                  ------------------FB04AA  200231Z /38    
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5204
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI 
AMEMBASSY VATICAN 
AMCONSUL HONG KONG 
USMISSION GENEVA 
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
JICPAC HONOLULU HI
SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
NSC WASHDC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000754 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/JMARTIN 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DRL/IRF 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HO CHI  00754  01 OF 02  200231Z 
STATE ALSO FOR INR/EAP/SEA AND INR/IL/B 
CINCPAC FOR FPA 
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM, KIRF, PINR, VM, RELFREE, HUMANR 
SUBJECT: VIETNAM'S CATHOLIC CO-REDEMPTRIX ORDER 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY: ON MAY 23, POLOFF VISITED WITH 
PRIESTS OF THE VIETNAMESE CATHOLIC ORDER OF CO- 
REDEMPTION IN HCMC.  ALTHOUGH ONLY TWO OF ITS MEMBERS 
ARE CURRENTLY IN PRISON, THE ORDER HAS BEEN AMONG THE 
MOST PERSECUTED OF VIETNAM'S RELIGIOUS GROUPS SINCE 
1975.  IT STILL OPERATES AN "UNDERGROUND SEMINARY" IN 
HCMC.  UNTIL NOW, INFORMATION AVAILABLE TO POST ABOUT 
THE ORDER HAD ALL BEEN SECOND-HAND.  THE VISIT PROVIDED 
USEFUL FIRST-HAND BACKGROUND ON THIS RELIGIOUS ORDER'S 
HISTORY OF PROBLEMS WITH THE GOVERNMENT.  END SUMMARY. 
 
ORIGINS OF THE CO-REDEMPTRIX ORDER 
---------------------------------- 
 
2. (SBU) POLOFF AND CONGEN INTERPRETER VISITED THE 
CATHOLIC ORDER OF CO-REDEMPTION ON MAY 23 IN HCMC'S THU 
DUC DISTRICT.  AFTER BEING LED TO AN INNER CHAMBER TO 
AVOID BEING OVERHEARD BY A PLAINCLOTHES POLICEMAN WHO 
ENTERED THE COMPOUND WITHIN A MINUTE OF THEIR ARRIVAL, 
THEY MET WITH AN ELDERLY PRIEST WHO WOULD IDENTIFY 
HIMSELF ONLY AS "FATHER JOHN."  FATHER JOHN, LIKE THE 
OTHER CO-REDEMPTRIX PRIESTS, WAS BORN IN BUI CHU 
DIOCESE SOUTHEAST OF HANOI.  HE WAS AMONG THE 40 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00754  01 OF 02  200231Z 
PERSONS TAKEN INTO CUSTODY DURING A POLICE RAID ON THE 
ORDER IN 1987.  HE, ALONG WITH FATHER TRAN DINH THU 
(FOUNDER OF THE ORDER), RECEIVED A 19-YEAR PRISON 
SENTENCE, BUT LIKE FATHER THU, HE WAS RELEASED IN 1993 
AFTER SERVING SIX AND ONE HALF YEARS. 
 
3. (U) FATHER TRAN DINH THU, BORN IN NORTHERN VIETNAM 
IN 1906, FOUNDED THE ORDER OF CO-REDEMPTION IN 1953 IN 
BUI CHU DIOCESE.  FATHER JOHN SAID THAT IN THE EARLY 
1950'S "A STATE OF WAR" EXISTED BETWEEN THE COMMUNISTS 
AND THE CATHOLIC DIOCESES OF BUI CHU AND NEIGHBORING 
PHAT DIEM.  FATHER THU ESTABLISHED THE ORDER NOT TO 
ENGAGE IN THE ARMED FIGHTING, ACCORDING TO FATHER JOHN, 
BUT ONLY TO EVANGELIZE AMONG THE NON-CHRISTIANS IN THE 
NORTH. 
 
4. (SBU) FATHER THU, FATHER JOHN AND THE OTHER CO- 
REDEMPTRIX PRIESTS WERE AMONG THE MORE THAN 600 
CATHOLIC PRIESTS WHO JOINED THE EXODUS OF NEARLY ONE 
MILLION PEOPLE (MOSTLY CATHOLICS) WHO ESCAPED TO THE 
SOUTH IN 1954 AHEAD OF PARTITION.  THEY ESTABLISHED A 
15-ACRE HEADQUARTERS AND SEMINARY IN THE THU DUC 
DISTRICT OF PRESENT-DAY HCMC, AND GRADUALLY EXPANDED 
THEIR MISSION TO THE MEKONG DELTA AND SOUTH CENTRAL 
VIETNAM.  FATHER JOHN SAID THAT EVEN NOW, ALL OF THE CO- 
REDEMPTRIX PRIESTS ORIGINALLY ARE FROM THE BUI CHU 
DIOCESE; POLOFF NOTICED THAT EVERYONE HE HEARD ON THE 
GROUNDS ON MAY 23 SPOKE WITH A NORTH VIETNAMESE ACCENT. 
 
POSTWAR PROBLEMS 
---------------- 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00754  01 OF 02  200231Z 
 
5. (SBU) AFTER APRIL 30, 1975, SOME 60 MEMBERS OF THE 
ORDER WERE ARRESTED, INCLUDING THE FOUNDER, FATHER THU. 
MOST OF THOSE ARRESTED, INCLUDING FATHER THU, WERE 
RELEASED IN 1977.  BUT AT THE SAME TIME, THE GOVERNMENT 
CONFISCATED THE ORDER'S PROPERTIES IN THE SOUTH OF 
VIETNAM - SCHOOLS, ORPHANAGES, RELIGIOUS TRAINING 
CENTERS - EXCEPT FOR THE 15-ACRE SITE AT THU DUC. 
 
6. (SBU) ON MAY 15, 1987, VIETNAMESE SECURITY FORCES 
SURROUNDED THE ORDER'S 15-ACRE COMPLEX AND ARRESTED 40 
PRIESTS AND LAYPERSONS, INCLUDING FATHER THU AND FATHER 
JOHN.  THEY CLOSED THE MONASTERY AT THE SITE AND 
CONFISCATED THE PROPERTY.  FATHER THU AND FATHER JOHN 
RECEIVED 19-YEAR PRISON SENTENCES, BUT WERE RELEASED IN 
1993 AFTER SERVING SIX AND ONE HALF YEARS.  ALL BUT TWO 
OF THE OTHERS ARRESTED IN 1987 ALSO HAVE SINCE BEEN 
RELEASED.  THE TWO WHO REMAIN IN PRISON ARE FATHER PHAM 
MINH TRI AND LAYPERSON NGUYEN THIEN PHUNG INCARCERATED 
AT Z30A PRISON AT XUAN LOC IN DONG NAI PROVINCE. 
FATHER JOHN SAID SIXTY-YEAR OLD FATHER TRI HAS BEEN 
SUFFERING NERVOUS/MENTAL PROBLEMS FOR THE PAST FIVE 
YEARS AS A RESULT OF HIS IMPRISONMENT. 
 
 
7. (SBU) THE ORDER'S SCHOOL BUILDINGS AT THE 15-ACRE 
SITE HAVE NOW BEEN TURNED INTO A GOVERNMENT SCHOOL. 
SOME OF THE OTHER BUILDINGS ON THE SITE HAVE BEEN 
TURNED INTO A TEXTILE FACTORY.  THIRTEEN PRIESTS AND 30 
LAYPERSONS NOW LIVE AT THE SITE NEAR THE OLD 
HEADQUARTERS ON PROPERTY DONATED TO THEM BY A CATHOLIC 
LAYMAN.  FATHER JOHN SAID THERE WERE 300 TO 400 OTHER 
"UNOFFICIAL RESIDENTS" AT THIS SITE.  THEN HE WHISPERED 
IN ENGLISH THAT THE ORDER STILL OPERATES AN 
"UNDERGROUND SEMINARY" THERE. 
 
8. (SBU) FATHER JOHN SAID POLICE USED TO COME INTO THE 
COMPOUND THREE OR FOUR TIMES A MONTH TO "HARASS THE 
RESIDENTS." BUT BEGINNING ABOUT THREE YEARS AGO, AFTER 
THE INVESTITURE OF FATHER PHAM MINH MAN AS ARCHBISHOP 
OF HCMC ARCHDIOCESE, THEY HAVE EASED UP AND NOW ENTER 
ONLY OCCASIONALLY.  FATHER JOHN NOTED, HOWEVER, THAT 
THE DISTRICT POLICE STATION IS "CONVENIENTLY LOCATED" 
JUST DOWN THE STREET FROM THE ENTRANCE TO THE COMPOUND. 
 
FATHER THU AND CARTHAGE, MISSOURI 
--------------------------------- 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HO CHI  00754  02 OF 02  200231Z 
 
9. (SBU) POLOFF HAD REQUESTED TO MEET WITH THE ORDER'S 
95-YEAR-OLD FOUNDER, FATHER TRAN DINH THU, BUT WAS TOLD 
ON ARRIVAL THAT FATHER THU WAS "TOO TIRED" TO MEET.  ON 
DEPARTURE, HOWEVER, FATHER JOHN BROUGHT POLOFF INTO 
ANOTHER ROOM WHERE FATHER THU WAS TALKING WITH SEVERAL 
PRIESTS AND NUNS.  ALTHOUGH HE APPEARED EXTREMELY 
FRAIL, FATHER THU DID NOT SEEM ALL THAT TIRED.  IN 
THEIR TWO-MINUTE CONVERSATION, FATHER THU NOTED THAT 
THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME HE HAD EVER HAD AN OPPORTUNITY 
TO WELCOME A WESTERN VISITOR TO HIS CHAMBERS. 
 
10. (SBU) BUT THE CO-REDEMPTRIX ORDER DOES HAVE WESTERN 
CONNECTIONS.  FATHER JOHN STATED THAT THE ORDER HAD 
ESTABLISHED A RELATIONSHIP WITH A CATHOLIC PARISH IN 
CARTHAGE, MISSOURI.  DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST 
EVERY YEAR, THE CHURCH IN CARTHAGE WELCOMES THOUSANDS 
OF VIETNAMESE-AMERICAN CATHOLICS WHO COME THERE TO PRAY 
IN FRONT OF A STATUE OF MARY THAT WAS FASHIONED IN AND 
IMPORTED FROM FATIMA IN PORTUGAL.  (NOTE: VIETNAMESE 
CATHOLICS IN VIETNAM MAKE A SIMILAR PILGRIMAGE IN THE 
FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST TO A CHURCH IN LA VANG IN CENTRAL 
VIETNAM AT THE SITE WHERE MARY IS SAID TO HAVE APPEARED 
200 YEARS AGO.  END NOTE.) 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
11. (U) WITH ONLY A FOUR-YEAR DIPLOMATIC PRESENCE IN 
HCMC AFTER A MORE THAN 20-YEAR ABSENCE, CONGEN 
PERSONNEL STILL HAVE MUCH TO LEARN ABOUT VIETNAM'S 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HO CHI  00754  02 OF 02  200231Z 
POSTWAR YEARS.  POST CONTINUES TO SEEK OUT AND MEET 
HISTORICAL FIGURES SINCE THE PAST IN VIETNAM CONTINUES 
TO HAUNT EVERY ASPECT OF THE PRESENT, AND THE 
HISTORICAL LEGACIES OFTEN HOLD KEYS TO BETTER 
UNDERSTANDING OF THE MORE CURRENT ISSUES. 
 
RAY 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
 


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