Updated: April 25, 2020 06:48 AM GMT
A Catholic family watch an online Mass at home in Yen Bai City on April 10 (Photo: UCA News)
Three dioceses in Vietnam have restarted daily Masses within limits after the government eased anti-coronavirus measures.
On April 24, Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long of Vinh allowed priests “to resume celebrating daily Masses at churches to meet Catholics’ spiritual needs and intense thirst for the Eucharist.”
Bishop Long said online Masses would end on April 25. The diocese based in the central northern province of Nghe An had called off Masses for nearly one month due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bishop asked priests to celebrate brief Masses with low attendances — two on weekdays and four on Sundays.
He said priests should hear private confessions and anoint patients in need. The diocese has 183 priests serving 290,000 Catholics in 119 parishes and mission stations.
Bishop Long called on Massgoers to wear masks, wash their hands, receive the Eucharist by hand and keep themselves at least two meters away from others. They could also follow Masses from outside churches.
The 67-year-old prelate said old people, children, patients and those who have returned from other places or daily work away from their parishes should pray at homes and do charitable work.
Bishop Long asked parishes to clean churches and surroundings and implement preventative measures by health authorities. They should not hold gatherings with large attendances.
He asked all people “to take effective measures to stem the pandemic and be aware of protecting your own health and others.” They should share material and spiritual needs with those who are badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis.
On April 23, Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop of Ha Tinh said that although the Covid-19 threat has reduced and some preventive measures have been lifted by the government, local people will still face a risk of the pandemic breaking out again.
Bishop Hop, 75, allowed 132 priests to restart daily Masses at churches with low attendances. Massgoers should be divided into small groups to attend Sunday Masses and solemn feasts.
He asked the diocese’s 114 parishes to create plenty of space for attendees in churches. They should not resume meetings, Eucharist adoration, pilgrimages, retreats, catechism classes and patron feasts with crowds.
The Dominican bishop said people with symptoms of fever and cough should not go to church and those who have returned from other places should quarantine themselves. Those who do not want to attend public Masses could stay home and do good work instead.
The prelate asked priests to end general absolution and to hear private confessions. They and laypeople should wear masks and keep themselves safe distances from one another.
He said the diocese has many people working in local industrial zones, other cities and abroad, urging them to take preventative measures to protect the health of themselves and their communities.
On April 24, Father Paul Tran Ky Minh, vicar general of My Tho Diocese in southern Vietnam, said Tien Giang provincial officials had allowed religions to restart religious services that are suitable for the local situation.
Father Minh said 125 priests in the diocese would normalize daily Masses at churches starting on April 25. Massgoers have to wear face masks, keep social distancing and clean facilities. He said other church activities remain suspended until further notice.
Vietnam’s 27 dioceses suspended public Masses and liturgical services on March 28 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
On April 22, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the anti-Covid-19 measures had brought good results and asked local government authorities to partly relax restrictions and restore economic and social activities so that people could return to normal life. He called on people to maintain constant vigilance against the pandemic.
As of April 24, Vietnam had reported 270 confirmed Covid-19 cases with no deaths. The two latest cases are Vietnamese students who returned from Japan on April 22.