Catholic church leaders have asked Caritas workers in an archdiocese in Vietnam's north to evangelize along with doing charitable work. Some 600 Caritas representatives from parishes in Hanoi Archdiocese attended a meeting at St. Joseph Major Seminary on Aug. 24-25 to discuss this approach. Present at the gathering were Cardinal Peter Nguyen Van Nhon of Hanoi, Bishop Thomas Aquino Vu Dinh Hieu, head of Caritas Vietnam, and Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long, head of the Episcopal Commission for Evangelization, as well as other bishops and priests. Bishop Hieu told the meeting that charity should be at the center of evangelization work. He made the point that an image of God was shown to society by reaching out to people in need, such as street children and those facing personal crises. Bishop Hieu noted that charity as an evangelization tool was "very suitable for today's society." Also at the planning meeting, Bishop Long said charity and evangelization in Vietnam should be mutually supportive. He referred to factors that worsen poverty such as poor education and a lack of transport options in remote areas. Many young women risked mistreatment by marrying foreign men to escape poverty, he said. Bishop Long cited alcohol and drug abuse as well as gambling, sexual exploitation and a lack of religious faith as social ills that could be addressed through charitable undertakings. The bishop said the mission of Caritas workers was not only to provide material support to the needy, but also to "introduce Jesus Christ and His teaching to them." One of the other attendees at the meeting, Cardinal Nhon, said Caritas in the parishes should train workers as evangelizers. However, they should also be trained to be enthusiastic about serving all people, regardless of their backgrounds, he said. Cardinal Nhon said well-off families should offer practical help to those who lived in the deplorable conditions due to poverty or illnesses. "Parishes should send their members to look after and give basic supplies to elderly people without relatives," the cardinal said. He gave another example whereby local Catholics could encourage and console the families of road accident victims. Cardinal Nhon noted that some parishes in his archdiocese offered poor people 10 kilograms of rice each month.
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"It is important that we have to carry the rice to them, stay with them, wash them, clean their homes and talk with them," he said. Caritas resumed its activities in the archdiocese in 2010 and has drawn 20,000 members from parishes. They provide emergency aid for natural disaster victims, build houses for poor people and offer scholarships to students. Caritas also gives medicines, food and money to patients in hospitals and remote areas. An organizer of the planning meeting said the activities of Caritas were "appreciated and admired" by government authorities and international organizations.