An annual youth gathering in northern Vietnam has been postponed until next year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Archbishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hanoi said government authorities had asked Bishop John Mary Vu Tat of Hung Hoa to put off hosting the 18th Northern Youth Day Gathering in November. Diocesan officials had asked the government for permission to organize the event at the national Hung Temple in Phu Tho province. Archbishop Thien, who serves as apostolic administrator of Hai Phong Diocese which hosted the 16th gathering with 15,000 participants in 2018, said the event for young Catholics from 11 northern dioceses will be postponed until 2021 because authorities still fear a coronavirus outbreak. Father Joseph Nguyen Trong Duong, head of Nghia Lo Deanery in Yen Bai province, said the suspension of the gathering is good for the poor diocese, which covers nine mountainous provinces and part of Hanoi.
He said it is hard to raise funds for the gathering in the post-pandemic period. Some 20,000 young people attended the 17th gathering in Bui Chu Diocese last year. Father Anthony Nguyen Tan Hoi, who serves Sung Do parish with 900 ethnic Hmong members, said the local Church has no choice but to comply with the government’s request for the suspension of the gathering. Father Hoi said Hung Hoa Diocese, the country’s biggest diocese in terms of territory, has no other venues large enough to receive tens of thousands of people. The gathering was held for the first time at Hung Temple in 2009. He admitted that the suspension of the event is a major disappointment to local youths, many of whom are from ethnic groups. “They have no chance to interact with other people from other places and learn faith experiences from their peers,” he said. On June 15, hundreds of Catholic youths in Yen Bai province attended their gatherings to prepare for the northern youth gathering. They talked about problems related to faith, love and evangelization and performed cultural dances. They also welcomed and carried the holy cross of the Northern Youth Gathering among parishes. “We will miss the rare gathering because we have prepared traditional clothes, dances and songs to display. I am not sure if I can attend the event next year because I have to get married,” said Mary Giang Thi Xua, a 16-year-old Hmong girl from Sung Do parish. Some 11 northern dioceses take turns to hold the annual gathering, which was initiated by the late Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh in 2002. On June 19, Vietnam’s Health Ministry reported seven new Covid-19 cases among people who had returned from Europe. The communist country has had no cases of community spread for two months.
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