Updated: March 19, 2020 09:01 AM GMT
A woman wearing a face mask as a preventive measure against Covid-19 waits at a bus stop in Hanoi on March 17. (Photo: AFP)
Vietnam's communist government has thanked Christians, including the Catholic hierarchy, for taking preventive steps to check the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.Head of religious affairs Vu Chien Thang used a March 17 statement to extend Easter greeting to all Catholics, Protestants and their leaders, Vietnam News Agency reported."We thank the Episcopal Council and bishops of dioceses for proactively implementing the instructions of the government and all-level administrations in disease control," Thang wrote.
He also praised the Catholic and Protestant churches for adjusting their religious practices to suit the grim situation created by the coronavirus outbreak.Thang said he was saddened that "complicated developments of the Covid-19 pandemic all over the world" have hit this year's Easter programs.
Following the outbreak, Vietnam has closed schools, cinemas, clubs, bars, massage parlors, karaoke lounges and online game centers.The government also asked religious organizations to call off large gatherings and directed people to wear masks in public places. It also suspended the issuance of visas to all foreign nationals.
After Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc declared the respiratory disease an epidemic in the country on Feb. 1, the Catholic Church in Vietnam took various steps.On Feb. 2, Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Kham, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, asked Catholics to launch measures to face the challenge.
The church has imposed curbs on festivals and religious festivals and instructed priests and the faithful to wear masks while participating in religious functions. Priests were also asked to distribute communion by hand.
The instructions were sent to all parishes, religious communities and seminaries in Vietnam's 27 dioceses.Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City has asked Catholics to follow Eucharistic celebrations online.People are allowed to practice religion in the Southeast Asian country with the approval of their state government. Vietnam has eight million Christians, mostly Catholic, constituting 9 percent of its population.
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