Protests erupted across Vietnam this week after two Catholic priests were beaten brutally allegedly by plain clothed police and pro-government thugs. One of them is in a coma.
Fr Paul Nguyen was beaten by a group of men when he intervened to save three women who were being attacked on Monday morning in a village in the sprawling Vinh diocese, some 300 kilometres south of Hanoi, Asia News reported.
He had said of the attack: "before I could say a word ... they have left the women aside and they turned on me, beating me with brutality, having recognised me as a priest. There were at least 30 uniformed policemen nearby and who simply looked on with indifference while I was subjected to the attack."
He is in hospital with broken ribs and head injuries.
The second priest, Fr Peter Nguyen The Binh was beaten up by an armed gang and thrown out of a second floor window when he visited Fr Nguyen in hospital, news reports add. He is reportedly in a coma.
Plain clothed police and pro-government thugs in the diocese's Dong Hoi city had also attacked anyone on the street wearing Catholic symbols, VietCatholic reported.
In particular, a local woman, Mrs Nguyen Thi Yen, and her 9 year old son were punched and kicked brutally. Some Catholic families reportedly have fled the city in search of safety.
The Bishop's Office of the diocese of Vinh has condemned the attacks.
News of the assaults on the priests and other attacks on Catholics have angered Catholics throughout the country, VietCatholic says.
In Ho Chi Minh, on Monday night, more than 2,000 Catholics attended a candlelight vigil held at the Redemptorist Monastery of the city demanding the Vietnam government stop immediately the overt persecution against the Church and its innocent people.
Special services were also held at local churches and at Thai Ha Redemptorist Monastery in Hanoi drawing thousands of Catholics.
Elsewhere in the country, in Nghe An, Ha Tinh, and Quang Binh, thousands of Catholics marched on the streets praying the Rosary.
Peaceful protestors also demanded the immediate release of seven Catholics who have been detained since a police raid at a war damaged church site in Tam Toa a week ago, when the faithful had gathered and erected a cross for worship.
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Priests beaten, one thrown from hospital window (Catholic News Agency)
Protests erupt throughout the country (VietCatholic)
Priest beaten into a coma (Asia News)