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Communist Vietnam lauds church steps against coronavirus

Religious affairs department praises Catholic and Protestant churches for adjusting religious practices

UCA News reporter, Hanoi

UCA News reporter, Hanoi

Published: March 19, 2020 08:47 AM GMT

Updated: March 19, 2020 09:01 AM GMT

Communist Vietnam lauds church steps against coronavirus

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.

The collective efforts put forward by religious organizations, including the Catholic and Protestant churches, have helped Vietnam effectively control the outbreak, winning kudos from the international community, he said.

Although Vietnam remains geographically and culturally close to China, the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, it has only 75 confirmed cases with zero deaths, according to its health ministry.

Thang regretted his inability to visit Christian leaders personally and exchange Easter greetings because of the virus restrictions in place.

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.

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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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