ASIA/VIETNAM – Prayer, fasting, charity: mission in times of pandemic

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Ho Chi Minh City – “Even in difficult times, the Church of Vietnam has increased missionary and charitable activities, as a sign of solidarity towards the poor”, declared the Bishops of Vietnam gathered in assembly in recent days. Noting the great vitality of the Catholic communities, despite the difficulties encountered in pastoral activities due to the pandemic, the Bishops praised the strong missionary impulse of the Church, of every reality, parish, movement and association, across the country.
“We have all noticed the pastoral difficulties and challenges of recent times caused by the limitations regarding community activities; however in this period God has given the People of God in Vietnam precious opportunities to engage with their brothers and sisters in various circumstances, especially in charity”. In fact, the Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam has promoted a special charity program entitled “Dear Saigon”. The program includes taking care of Covid patients in isolation areas and in field hospitals, supporting “front line staff”, offering food aid to the poor, distributing medicines and basic necessities at home and on the roads. The Bishops recognized “the living witness of the charity of the People of God” and, as a proposal of faith and evangelization, they issued a Pastoral Letter entitled “Living the faith during the pandemic”.
In the text, sent to Fides, it is noted that “together with the physical and psychological suffering, the pandemic has also left a negative impact on the life of faith”, often making it impossible for the faithful to participate directly in liturgical celebrations. “From a faith point of view, we invite all of you to live this special time as a time of Lent, in which to follow the three fundamental ministries: praying, fasting and doing charitable works”, they write. The Bishops note that “the first thing to do is to pray”: “Family members have the opportunity to meet and hold regular prayer, the recitation of the Rosary, so that all can be closely united with each other in the Lord, and together they can overcome the difficulties of the present moment. As Saint Paul said: May your hope make you joyful, be patient in your tribulations and pray at all times “, reads the text.
Furthermore, in enduring restrictions, economic hardships and shortages, “one can take an opportunity to fast in communion with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, praying for our brothers and sisters who are struggling with their illness”, write the prelates.
With regard to charity, the Bishops encourage young people “to actively participate in charitable activities that help to open their hearts to others and to live as disciples of Jesus”. The “good works” done by Catholic believers across Vietnam in the pandemic “have left a very good impression on the people and the authorities”. The Letter exhorts parish priests to be “true Pastors who know and take care of the concerns, hopes, difficulties and trials experienced by the people entrusted to them”, in order to accompany and support them. And finally it invites priests, religious and laity to “live faith and proclaim the Gospel with enthusiasm and creativity”.