Notre Dame Catholic Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Notre Dame Catholic Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (CC/Flickr/Buck82)

A local authority in Vietnam has used the country’s new religion law to declare a Catholic Mass illegal, reports Asia News.

The ruling was made by the People’s Committee of Quỳnh Ngọc, a municipality in the north-central province of Nghệ An, after a Catholic priest failed to register the Mass ahead of time. The committee cited the law’s requirement that officially registered religious organisations must provide in writing the list of annual religious activities within 30 days.

According to Asia News, the local authorities have been trying for a long time to stifle the religious life of the local community, which has fought for social justice and spoken out on behalf of dissidents who disagree with the government.

The new law, which came into effect on 1 January across Vietnam, was “created to repress and control” rather than improve freedom of religion, according to its critics.

“The passing of this far-reaching new law on belief and religion… will much more likely move the political system toward more micromanagement and control of religion, rather than toward more religious freedom as internationally understood,” Vo Tran Nhat, Executive Secretary of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, said in 2016 during the revision stages of the law.