Updated: February 18, 2021 04:35 AM GMT
Vicar general Father Anthony Nguyen Van Thang places ash on the heads of the faithful at Hanoi Cathedral on Ash Wednesday on Feb. 17. (Photo: tonggiaophanhanoi.org)
Bishops in Vietnam have called on Catholics to follow Lent practices to bring solidarity and peace to people during the Covid-19 pandemic and care for the creation.
Bishop Cosme Hoang Van Dat of Bac Ninh said Christians enter Lent — a period of 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday — with growing concern about the coronavirus pandemic, which threatens human life and has caused economic decline and social disorder.
“Lent invites us to fast, pray and do charitable work and moral duties to alleviate people’s suffering and shine the Easter good news at the life of families and society during this hard time,” Bishop Dat said.
The Jesuit prelate, who visited many parishes during the Lunar New Year festival, said Catholics are active in pastoral activities and acutely aware of the importance of Mass. Many parishes and subparishes built new facilities last year.
He said in places where people have been in quarantine due to the coronavirus, many Catholics gather at their homes to pray for their own safety, the moral practice they had ignored. Some places in Bac Giang province, one of six provinces under the diocese, are still quarantined.
Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop of Ha Tinh said to live out Lent with love means to care for those who are suffering, abandoned and threatened by Covid-19. He reminded Catholics to remember God’s words “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you” when they face a gloomy future.
“With Christian love, we will set their minds at ease because they feel love from God,” the Dominican bishop said.
Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City said moral practices during the Lent season are really necessary during the pandemic. The Church prays for itself and has a mission to pray for the world.
“Praying is not only appealing to God but also listening to God, who wants us to do penance and improve our lives according to the Good News,” Archbishop Nang said, adding that God will not answer their prayers if they pray for the coronavirus pandemic to end soon and then they return to their own life of selfishness, greed, hatred and sin.
Masses and services at many churches in the southern city have been suspended for the outbreak.
Archbishop Nang said Lent retreats will help Catholics to abandon their old lives and follow God on a new path.
He said the Lent season is a good time for Christians to do charitable work and open their hearts to others. In these hard times, people need more solidarity and sharing than ever before.
“We receive love from Jesus and give it to our brothers and sisters. Catholics must be trailblazers in forgiveness and conciliation, accepting and helping one another, and recognizing poor people as Jesus to feed them,” he said, adding that charity must be a particular sign to identify Catholics.
Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi said fraternity is the best medicine, like the vaccines against the coronavirus the world expects. Life is from communion.
He said fraternity means that people love one another and all creation as much as themselves. Communion ties reach out when people are ready to give up their time and daily work and to turn attention to others.
He urged Catholics to touch people in need, especially young people who face personal crises, isolate themselves from communities and live in broken homes. “We should walk with them, pray for them and give them useful advice,” he said.
The archbishop, who also serves as apostolic administrator of his home diocese of Hai Phong, said people and all creation have close relations to one another, so we should urgently respond to the needs of the Earth and find suitable approaches to heal, safeguard and take care of the planet.
“In doing so, people live in communion with the environment and together with all creation, glorify the creator and help one another reach our ends according to his love plan,” he said.