ASIA/VIETNAM – Support for the poor and the sick: the Church deeply involved in charity actions for the pandemic

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Ho Chi Minh City. – While Vietnam, considered a country that had successfully fought the pandemic, is affected by the fourth wave, in particular by the Delta variant of Covid-19, the dioceses of the Catholic Church in Vietnam continue to be active in the work of prevention and charity. Local communities issue specific warnings, instructions to priests, religious and laity, urging them to respect protocols and to participate in online liturgies in order to maintain the bond of faith with the community, which is suffering with the rest of the population. In the context of the emergency present in all cities and villages, in particular in Ho Chi Minh City and in the southern provinces, the Bishops of the country’s 27 Catholic dioceses have urged all the faithful to support the poor and sick caused by the pandemic. In a letter made public by the Bishops, signed by Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, Metropolitan Archbishop of Hue and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam, and sent to Agenzia Fides, it is noted: “Never, not even during the war, Ho Chi Minh City Chi Minh has gone through days of such urgent challenges as today. More and more serious tragedies occur: infected communities, overcrowded hospitals, exhausted doctors and medical personnel, prevention teams under pressure, interruption of production of goods and services, limited transport, rising prices of raw materials. The city, once known as the “Pearl of the Far East”, a thriving economic center, is now in danger, with a shortage of staff, a shortage of rice, shortages of vegetables, lack of money and a lack of medicine. Tens of thousands of old people and children selling products on the street, street vendors, taxis and day laborers, what will they do and how will they be able to earn and get food if they cannot go out, due to confinement, in the coming days? Where will day factory workers find money? And will the factories, without workforce, reduce wages or close their doors?”.
The historical phase, according to the Bishops, is dramatic: “Today more than ever, we urge citizens who live in the countryside to look at this beautiful city, which was once a center of love, become the epicenter of a pandemic. We call in faithfulness to all members of God’s people, congregations, parishes, groups, charitable organizations to consider this present time as a real opportunity to practice the spirit of charity according to the Gospel. We urge mass media organizations to quickly convey this idea to all. Please act urgently. Let us do all we can to save our brothers and sisters who are struggling with the disease and livelihoods”. The text of the note. “We do not know how long the crisis will last and how it will evolve. But for Catholics, this is a sign of the times which obliges us to be ready to recognize the will to God. The pandemic is wreaking havoc in our country, but we, along with our Vietnamese compatriots all over the world, at home or abroad, will build a new city and a new society based on mutual love”.
In response to the appeal, the Christian communities mobilized and launched collections of money, material goods and food, especially in rural areas, to be sent to the people of Ho Chi Minh City. At the epicenter of the emergency, the Archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, Mgr Joseph Nguyen Nang, called on all the faithful of the Archdiocese to strictly respect the distance between families in order to end the chain of propagation of the virus. He also called for “sharing daily food for families in need, and sent 430 people, including priests, religious and volunteers, to hospitals to take care and give moral and spiritual comfort to Covid patients”. This is an excellent opportunity for all religious to fulfill the mission of their vocation as men and women of God, who can dispense the sacraments, including the anointing of the sick”, he said. When a patient dies from Covid-19, the city government allows religious authorities to perform funeral rites for the deceased before being cremated. “This is a significant gesture to comfort Catholics. The Archdiocese will organize a group of priests who will take turns to carry out this task”, said Mgr. Joseph Nguyen Nang. The Church of Vietnam – the Bishops say – is always an integral part of the nation, working for the common good and at the service of all people in difficulty, without any distinction of religion, culture, ethnicity, not only with prayer but also with presence of comfort and participation in works of charity, responsible and loving towards the nation.