Church officials from Vietnam and Japan are working to collaborate on how to best provide pastoral care and social benefits to the increasing number of migrant workers and diaspora in both countries. Jesuit Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in Vietnam, said Catholic churches have agreed to establish a joint working group to include representatives from both countries, including priests and Religious. Father Vu said the working group will offer professional advice and pastoral programs to Vietnamese workers in Japan and alternatively to Japanese in Vietnam. Father Vu accompanied Bishop Joseph Do Manh Hung, head of the commission, during an official visit to meet with officials from the Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move on Sept. 23-28. The priest said both sides are now preparing to set up two pastoral centers for Vietnamese migrant workers in two ecclesiastical provinces of Tokyo and Osaka. Father Vu said some 200,000 Vietnamese migrant workers live in Japan and many of them suffer economic exploitation, oppression and abuse. To deal with the needs and difficulties of faith life among Vietnamese migrants
is a big challenge, said Father Vu who is the vicar for Pastoral Care of Foreigners in Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese. Father Vu said despite a lack of personnel, the church in Japan tries to offer Vietnamese migrants faith education, pastoral work and legal advice. The church in Japan also helps Vietnamese migrants integrate into local communities, and tries to protect them from exploitation. There are 450,000 Catholics in Japan
out of a total population of 120 million. They are served by 1,800 priests, among them 519 foreign priests. During the visit, Bishop Hung asked the Japanese church to continue their generous support to enable Vietnamese communities to grow in faith and social capabilities. The prelate said the commission plans to establish an office in Japan where local priests, Religious, social workers, legal advisers can be present officially to help Vietnamese workers. "When they need advice and directions, this is one trusted address for them," said Bishop Hung. "We also need professional and financial support to build an office in Vietnam where we can help those who will be going to Japan to have proper training and to be better prepared," he said. "At the same time, we need someone from Japan
to help us to train our staff in this field," he said. Bishop Hung said there are some 100,000 Japanese migrants working in Vietnam. Since last Easter, about 50 Japanese Catholics attended Mass once a month at the Pastoral Center in Ho Chi Minh City. As part of earlier cooperation between both sides, Father Vu said Vietnam's Catholic Church has sent 170 religious and 41 priests to study and work in Japan in recent years to support the local church there.