Vietnamese priest beaten at planned orphanage

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A Catholic priest in Vietnam was beaten unconscious by a group of "thugs" following the destruction of a house he intended to turn into an orphanage, the church said in a statement.

The Rev. Nguyen Van Binh had built the house on a piece of land he purchased near his church in Chuong My District outside Hanoi, the Office of the Hanoi Archdiocese said in a statement posted on its website.

It said Binh, who wanted to turn the site into an orphanage, visited the house last weekend and found it had been destroyed and was then attacked and knocked unconscious by a group of men at the site. He suffered a torn eardrum and pains in his head and stomach. He was treated at hospitals and is currently recovering at the Archdiocese.

"The unjustified brutal act of beating by the group of thugs is in violation of the laws, grossly insulting human dignity and is unacceptable," the statement said.

It added that the Archbishop of Hanoi has asked Chuong My District police to investigate the case.

A police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing policy, said officers were probing the incident, but declined to give more details.

The incident has added to the uneasy relations between Hanoi and the church, which has been calling for the communist government to return church land confiscated decades ago.

Hanoi also does not have formalized relations with the Vatican and insists on having final approval on any clergy appointments. There are 6 million Roman Catholics in Vietnam, the second largest Catholic community in Southeast Asia after the Philippines