Updated: July 30, 2021 05:03 AM GMT
Society of Missions members prepare vegetables to supply people in need in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo supplied)
Catholics in Vietnam's southern archdiocese, the country's Covid-19 epicenter, are providing emergency food and spiritual succor for people who are increasingly desperate due to social distancing measures.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City said the pandemic situation in the largest commercial hub is deteriorating rapidly. The number of infections and deaths is rising day by day, while social distancing orders are tightening up in the hope of containing the chain of infection.
He said lots of people now live in miserable conditions and are raising despairing pleas for help.
“How can we remain indifferent to the mental and physical sufferings of our brothers and sisters,” said Archbishop Nang, who reminded people about Jesus’ words’: “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat.”
Noting the invisible coronavirus seems to be laughing at all human vainglory and arrogance, the archbishop invited local Catholics to place implicit trust in God and pray more earnestly to him to love the world.
The prelate urged them to actively and enthusiastically help those who are in desperate need of love and attention, according to Jesus' order “You give them something to eat.”
In these days, more than ever, we need to show our communion concretely with one another
He said that although it is impossible to leave home during the social distancing period, parish priests, associations and families should look out for those in dire need regardless of their faith.
It is hard to recognize the poor who are quietly hidden here and there, and their cries are so faint that few people could hear.
Archbishop Nang said parish priests should perform decisive roles in mobilizing useful resources in their parishes to support families in difficulty as many religious orders do. Priests should report their parishes' needs to Caritas workers who will coordinate donations from other places and provide for them.
"We close churches but open our hearts," he noted.
Archbishop Nang said Christians also have a duty to comfort those who get deeply troubled as prolonged anxieties and worries will create great psychological pressure for them, leading them to stress, fatigue and gloom.
He said some people said goodbye to their relatives before leaving for quarantine places, and after a short time people at home received only the urns of their ashes. There have been people desperately committing suicide in recent days.
He asked priests and laypeople to call to console and encourage those who are suffering. "Please patiently listen to those who have not a clue where to cling."
"In these days, more than ever, we need to show our communion concretely with one another. Priests, parish communities and associations should use social media to connect with one another, share information and support one another. Each person should be a divine mercy instrument,” the archbishop said.
"This is the time when God trains us to get out of ourselves and think about others. We should not shirk our responsibilities by asking who my brothers and sisters are but show that we are close neighbors of miseries.”
On July 26, the Office of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Vietnam set up a zero-dong mini-supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Phu district. The charity store, supported by local authorities and businesses, offers more than 30 basic commodities including rice, eggs, vegetables, cooking oil and medical supplies to migrant workers, homeless people, beggars and those lacking food.
The local church gave 1,000 gift certificates to families affected by the outbreak regardless of their backgrounds. Each certificate is worth 400,000 dong (US$17) to each household. The store, serving 200 people per day, will be open until July 30.
We want to give our small contributions to people in need as a way to spread God's love to others
Father Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu, the office head, said the store is funded by benefactors from other places who make contributions to people in the city. The charity store is aimed at bringing emergency food to those who lost their jobs due to the contagion.
Father Vu said people in difficulties should contact parishes and local authorities to get free tokens.
Father Albert Nguyen Mai Thanh, who is in charge of the Society of Missions of Vietnam, said the society has provided rice, fish sauce, vegetables and canned food to 1,200 families in quarantined places.
"We want to give our small contributions to people in need as a way to spread God's love to others," he said, adding that doing charitable work means doing evangelizing work.
Father Thanh said the society helps out those who need food as all people in isolated areas are in need and facing difficulties.
He called on benefactors from other places to donate food to the society so that it can distribute it to Covid-19 victims.
"This is a good opportunity for Catholics to build a society of loving and support one another," he said.