Catholics prepare for the first Mass held on May 9 evening at Tong Viet Buong Church in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo: UCA News)
The Catholic Church in Vietnam has resumed religious activities as normal after the government lifted social distancing measures against the Covid-19 pandemic.
On May 8, Vu Chien Thang, head of the government’s committee for religious affairs, said the country had basically controlled the Covid-19 pandemic and found no new communal transmission of the coronavirus for the past 21 days. All provinces and cities had a low risk of infection.
Thang asked religious organizations to resume normal activities but to ensure preventative measures against Covid-19. Worship places should be cleaned and be spacious.
The government official said those who attend gatherings with high attendances have to wear face masks and wash hands. People who return from foreign regions with the pandemic must be quarantined in public places in 14 days.
He also allowed clinics run by religious groups to reopen and to give medical treatment to patients. Religious sites should start to welcome domestic visitors.
On May 8, Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi said life is returning to normal in the capital. “We are pleased to thank God and believe that prayers of the faithful around the world made a contribution to stemming the pandemic,” he said.
He wants faith activities — Masses, catechism classes and activities of associations — to return to normal. All parishes must end online Masses and general absolution. Priests should actively confess Catholics so that people who have not confessed during Lent could go to confession and receive the Eucharist in the Easter Season.
Archbishop Thien called on Catholics to continue Eucharist adoration and praying for countries hit badly by the deadly pandemic and for the world to be in peace. Catholics held Eucharist adoration on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the country’s lockdown.
Father Ignatius Ho Van Xuan, vicar general of Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, asked priests to resume all liturgical services and pastoral care starting on May 9. He called on local Catholics to clean facilities, wash their hands and wear masks.
He urged Catholics to really treasure and actively receive sacraments as they clearly felt a lack of spiritual needs when the Church suspended all public services for more than six weeks due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bishop Vincent Nguyen Van Ban of Ban Me Thuot called for all religious activities at parishes and communities in the diocese to return to normal starting on May 9.
He said he plans to ordain 11 deacons as priests on May 19 at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Buon Ma Thuot City. Although the event is good news, only those who have relationships with the priestly candidates will be invited to attend as a way to prevent the risk of the pandemic spreading.
Bishop John Mary Vu Tat of Hung Hoa called on Catholics to eagerly attend liturgy on May 9 and to maintain family prayers to build their families as churches at homes.
He asked priests to celebrate rites of acceptance of catechumens on the coming Pentecost or at convenient times. Those people had not been baptized in the last Paschal Virgil due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The prelate also called on missionaries to soon resume their evangelization work which was cancelled by the pandemic.
Father Joseph Nguyen Dinh Tuyen, pastor of Yen Bai parish, said he and his two priest assistants will celebrate six Masses at three parishes on the evening of May 9. The three priests serve 6,000 Catholics at three parishes and some subparishes.
Father Tuyen, 52, said Catholics weekly clean facilities and prepare for services.
“We are happy to resume liturgical services and lay Catholics miss them a lot,” he said. “We will thank God and pray for the world to escape from the pandemic soon.” They had suspended Masses since March 28 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Michael Ninh Duc Hoang, head of the Tong Viet Buong parish council in Ho Chi Minh Ciy, said many Catholics had cleaned the church, installed lights at the sanctuary and arranged flowers, preparing for an evening Mass on May 9.
“We have longed for this Mass for 42 days since we had to attend online Masses late March,” he said.
Hoang said Masses held at churches will bring unity to communities as Massgoers receive the Eucharist as food for their souls.
Vietnam has 27 dioceses serving some seven million Catholics out of a total population of 96 million.