A fruit retailer shakes hands with Bishop Joseph Dinh Duc Dao on Dec. 14. (Photo courtesy of giaophanxuanloc.net)
A bishop from southern Vietnam has spread Christmas spirit among Catholics by paying an Advent visit to traders at a market.
On Dec. 14, Bishop Joseph Dinh Duc Dao of Xuan Loc, accompanied by Father Lawrance Do Nam Tan of Phuc Nhac Parish and some lay leaders, visited the traditional market of Phuc Nhac in Thong Nhat district of Dong Nai province.
Bishop Dao made a walking and sightseeing tour around the market where he shook hands and talked with vendors, retailers and shopkeepers about their business. Many people including purchasers gathered around him, listening to him and taking photos and videos of him.
The prelate encouraged them to treat purchasers with love, respect, kindness and joy so that they could share those good things with their family members at home.
“In doing so, we not only sell out of goods for a living but live out our mission of love,” he told them.
The 75-year-old bishop and the congregation fervently prayed the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be to the Father, and sang a Christmas carol. Many raised their eyes and looked at the sky while praying.
Bishop Dao, rector of the Catholic Institute of Vietnam, also offered rosaries to the people and blessed them.
“I am extremely happy to meet our bishop at the market. We have never dreamed about his visit to us here. He’s amazing,” Therese Thu Tram, a noodle retailer, said with a broad smile, adding that he jocularly received a noodle bowl from her.
Bai, a soya cake retailer, said she met the friendly bishop for the first time. In the past she had watched him from a long distance as he was surrounded by many people while he was paying a pastoral visit to her parish.
Mary Kim Anh, a fruit trader, said Bishop Dao’s visit brought her joy even though she only sold a little fruit. “He brings us God’s love and grace so we have to spread them among other people,” Anh said, adding that she took a souvenir photo of the bishop at her stall.
Anne Pham Thi Thao, a shopkeeper, said the bishop advised her to respect and sympathize with those who visit her shop and buy nothing since they have not enough money. “He teaches me a valuable lesson about working with my customers,” Thao said.
On Dec. 13, Bishop Dao and Catholics gathered at Thanh Tam Church to recite the rosary and pray for local homeless people and families with problems to seek love and consolation from God.
Bishop Dao, a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, calls on Catholics to build the local Church into a “shrine of divine mercy.” He regularly visits temples, factories, markets, migrant workers, patients and elderly people.
The bishop, who worked in Rome from 1964 to 2009, was named as auxiliary bishop in 2013 and three years later became the bishop of Vietnam’s largest diocese in terms of Catholic population. The diocese has some one million Catholics, whose ancestors moved from northern dioceses in 1954 after French troops were defeated by northern communist forces.