Tam Tòa Church

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Ruins of Tam Tòa Church

Tam Tòa Church is an old Catholic church built during the late 19th century in Đồng Hới, now the capital of Quảng Bình Province in central Vietnam. During the Vietnam War, the church was destroyed by American bombs on February 11, 1965. It has remained undisturbed as a war relic.[1]


Tam Tòa parish is one of the oldest Catholic parishes in Vietnam with its roots dating back to the mid 17th century.

There have been ongoing disputes between the government and the rebuilding of the church. The Diocese of Vinh and the Archdiocese of Huế have been trying to reclaim the church (what is left of it and its ground) since 1996 when it was taken back by the local government in an attempt to turn into a war symbol of American aggression. Up until 1996, mass was celebrated weekly in front of the church's tower.

In February 2009 after years of fruitless negotiation, 14 parish priests and Bishop Cao of Vinh Diocese decided to concelebrate mass on the property without obtaining permission.

In July 2009 rumor was spreading that the local government will build a tourist resort next to the church. The parish people in response started building an altar and erecting a giant cross on the property. On July 21, the government finally had enough and sent in police to disperse the crowd who were gathering to continue their construction and also to protest.[2] A dozen people were arrested and some were beaten badly by the police. The situation was made worse when the police attacked two priests from other parishes who went to Vinh Diocese to show support. The two are in critical condition.

Some of the Vietnamese Catholics in Vietnam (about 10 million strong or 12% of the population) responded by holding vigil masses and silent protests all weekend long in central Vietnam. This is a direct challenge to the government.[3]

Even though the situation was viewed[by whom?] as conflict between the Catholic Church and the Vietnamese government by the rest of the country, the issue of confiscated land and the rights of land ownership have been a flashing point between government and the general public for many years. Whether the Tam Tòa crisis will lead to major changes in the government or force the government to take harsh actions against those who challenge its authority remains to be seen.


  1. ^ Lonely Planet Vietnam -Nick Ray, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow - 2010 Page 204 "A landscaped riverside promenade runs beside the haunting Tam Toa Church, which was bombed in 1965. Only part of the front facade and a ...
  2. ^ Leonard Leo International Religious Freedom (2010): Annual Report Page 197 "... Quang Binh province after police destroyed a temporary church structure erected near the ruins of the historic Tam Toa Church in Vinh Diocese. ... Reportedly, not all Vietnamese government officials condoned the destruction of the crucifix."
  3. ^ International Religious Freedom (2010): Annual Report to Congress - Page 197 Leonard Leo "In July 2009, as many as 200000 Catholics peacefully protested in Quang Binh province after police destroyed a temporary church structure erected near the ruins of the historic Tam Toa Church in Vinh Diocese."