Vietnam’s smallest diocese in terms of Catholic population is planning to offer pastoral work to Catholics as the government relaxes Covid-19 preventative measures. Lang Son-Cao Lang Diocese will launch a Week of Reconciliation starting on May 3, Good Shepherd Sunday. During the special week with the theme “On Shepherd Jesus’ Shoulder,” parishes will organize contrition rites and private confessions, and priests from one deanery can gather and hear confession at each parish. Catholics granted general absolution at Lent are required to go to private confession by canon law. Father Vincent Vu Van Cong from the Lang Son Bishop’s House Office called on Catholics to increase charitable activities in the post-Covid-19 period as many families have had their trades and jobs severely affected, while patients, the disabled and the elderly are not given proper care, and students have problems in their studies. The priest asked parishes to involve and train Catholic youths in carrying out charitable work as their mission.
Father Vincent Nguyen Van Nghiem, who is in charge of training pre-seminary students at Lang Son Bishop’s House, said that on May 1 all churches in Lang Son-Cao Lang Diocese rang bells at 5am and celebrated special Masses giving thanks to God and to one another for their survival of the pandemic. Father Nghiem said many Catholics attended Masses and kept themselves one meter from one another. Each Mass lasting 30 minutes was attended by fewer than 20 people to help with social distancing. The priest said catechism classes and other activities remain suspended. Father Cong said Catholics also celebrated the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 and opened the traditional month of offering flowers to Mother Mary. They no longer attend online Masses provided by other dioceses. Father Cong said the 107-year-old diocese, which is home to various ethnic groups in the two provinces of Cao Bang and Lang Son and part of Ha Giang province which borders China, did not hold online Masses during coronavirus measures imposed in late March. The diocese on the periphery of northernmost Vietnam, serving 6,000 Catholics in 14 parishes and 13 mission stations, published a weekly booklet called Church at Family, which directs Catholics on how to reflect on the Bible and say prayers at homes. They daily gathered for prayer at 8pm and their householders offered the Eucharist to other family members. Last week the dioceses of Da Lat, Ha Tinh, My Tho and Vinh resumed normal Masses with some restrictions. On April 29, the Pastoral Institute in Ho Chi Minh City announced that it would reopen its classes on May 4. Students are asked to wear masks, wash hands and keep social distancing. On April 28, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said Vietnam had fundamentally driven back the pandemic. The Southeast Asian country has recorded no new community transmissions for the past 12 days. He said the government would relax social distancing regulations for businesses to tackle unemployment for growth.
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