Updated: August 30, 2021 09:47 AM GMT
Catholic volunteers at Thai Hoa Church in Dong Nai province on Aug. 28 before starting voluntary work at hospitals for Covid-19 patients. (Photo courtesy of giaophanxuanloc.net)
Catholics in Vietnam's southern dioceses where the contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 is raging out of control have been asked to join frontline forces to serve patients in hospitals and isolated areas.
Bishop Joseph Nguyen Tan Tuoc of Phu Cuong said the pandemic is becoming fiendishly complicated and serious in Binh Duong province, home to numerous industrial zones attracting migrant workers from throughout the country.
He said the number of new infections rises substantially day by day and local hospitals and isolation centers are heavily overloaded and suffering from severe lack of medical personnel.
Bishop Tuoc said 141 local priests, seminarians, religious and laypeople set off on Aug. 15 to care for patients in Tan Uyen, which is stricken with the outbreak.
"Although our volunteers have been wildly enthusiastic about looking after patients for the past two weeks, their service is too small for so big a demand of patients," he said, adding that the volunteers are expected to complete their work this weekend and return home.
Responding to provincial officials' requests for more volunteers to support frontline forces, "for the spirit of Christian charity and sharing the government's heavy responsibility to serve the community, I would like to call on you to join the second wave of volunteers to fight against the pandemic," Bishop Tuoc said in a letter posted on Aug. 29.
We are sent to serve patients with the Catholic spirit — to share society's onerous duty, meet and bring divine mercy to people in untold misery and black depression
The bishop, who serves as head of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communication, said this is an excellent opportunity for local Catholics to bear witness to Christian charitable values.
He said volunteers aged 18 and above are required to have good health, spirit of service and healthcare skills that are an asset. They will be tested for Covid-19, vaccinated and taught medical skills before setting off to help transport patients to hospitals, care for patients, provide meals at hospitals and other work.
On Aug. 28, some 98 priests, deacons, religious and laypeople from the neighboring diocese of Xuan Loc began voluntary work to care for patients at hospitals in Dong Nai province.
"We are sent to serve patients with the Catholic spirit — to share society's onerous duty, meet and bring divine mercy to people in untold misery and black depression," Vicar General Father Dominic Nguyen Tuan Anh told volunteers.
They should support medical staff, soldiers and militiamen who are physically exhausted by the national fight against the pandemic, he said.
Nguyen Quoc Vu, head of the province's committee for religious affairs, praised the volunteers for "not only living out Christian love and charitable duties but showing their civil duty to the nation."
The volunteers lustily sang the Peace Prayers by St. Francis of Assisi before setting off for hospitals.
Vietnam's largest diocese with one million members has sent 391 volunteers to hospitals and isolation centers at local officials' request. Another 64 volunteers have joined in giving tests to communities in Bien Hoa.
The archdiocese has sent 352 religious volunteers to serve at hospitals for Covid-19 patients since late July
They are expected to serve for two weeks before returning home but many decided to renew for another fortnight.
On Aug. 20, Father Joseph Tran Hoa Hung, who is in charge of male and female religious in Ho Chi Minh City, called on local religious aged 20-50 to continue giving health care to patients.
The archdiocese has sent 352 religious volunteers to serve at hospitals for Covid-19 patients since late July.
The city and the two neighboring provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai have become the country's Covid-19 epicenter with 336,770 infections and 9,528 deaths among the total of 431,073 cases in 62 provinces and cities since late April.