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Vietnamese nativity scenes promote humanity during pandemic

Innovative creches pay homage to frontline healthcare workers and migrant workers affected by the contagion

Vietnamese nativity scenes promote humanity during pandemic

The field hospital nativity in front of Ganh Hao Church in Dong Hai district of Bac Lieu province. (Photo courtesy of Giao Xu Ganh Hoa-Giao Phan Can Tho's Facebook)

Published: December 20, 2021 05:12 AM GMT

Updated: December 20, 2021 05:22 AM GMT

Two parishes in Vietnam have erected special creches — one with a model of a field hospital and the other made of old tires — calling on people to show human love to those in need during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Catholics in Ganh Hao Parish recently made a fantastic model of a hospital for Covid-19 patients in front of their church as a Christmas creche. The parish, in Dong Hai district of the southern province of Bac Lieu, serves 1,000 Catholics who net fish at sea and trade fish for a living. The big colorful creche is named Ganh Hao Hospital of Love.

Father Joseph Nguyen Van Truc, parish priest of Ganh Hao Church, said all people have been keeping up the fight against the pandemic. Frontline forces — medical staff, soldiers and volunteers — work at full stretch to save victims.

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"We chose to make the nativity scene in a modern style, depicting the scene of Jesus being born in a field hospital, where Covid-19 patients are received and treated," Father Truc said, adding that traditional nativities depict the birth of Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem in the Holy Land, while the modern version describes nativity scenes in specific contexts.

The 40-year-old priest said the parish’s creche is themed Act Together for Love, which is inspired by theme of the next Synod of Bishops: "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission."

He said all life-size characters at the hospital nativity perform their duties out of love for others.

Father Truc said the Magi offer vaccines, medicines, face masks and sanitizers that are badly needed in the world rather than gold, frankincense and myrrh

He said two healthcare givers with two wings at the hospital’s gate symbolize angels, who in the past said Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to people of goodwill, and today take care of patients. They really deserve to be honored as angels during the pandemic.

The Magi in medical gear on the left of the nativity, who traveled long distances on camels to worship Jesus in the past, now trace infections and take them to hospitals. They set off to serve patients faithfully.

Father Truc said the Magi offer vaccines, medicines, face masks and sanitizers that are badly needed in the world rather than gold, frankincense and myrrh.

An ambulance on the right of the nativity shows the image of a synodal church where all people are invited to love one another and willingly bring loving care to others in need.

He said all people set off to head towards the center of the nativity where Infant Jesus is in a hospital bed, sharing the pain of human beings. He is infected with Covid-19, so his parents Mother Mary and St. Joseph in medical gear tend to him.

He said over Jesus’ head is a background with a bronze drum, a symbol of the national culture, meaning that Jesus is also Vietnamese and brings peace to the world and Vietnam too.

The nativity is decorated with two Christmas trees of masks and used jars of vaccines, the best way to prevent the contagion.

A banner at the nativity declares: “If you do not know how to love, please come in!” That means people will know how to love others when they enter the hospital nativity with a big picture of healthcare givers, priests, religious, soldiers and volunteers who work for love.

Father Truc, who was assigned to the parish in 2018, said Christmas is one of the solemn feasts for Christians, so all churches and families are busy preparing everything for this event. Decorating Christmas scenes is extremely meaningful work.

The priest also called on local families to make nativity displays at their homes to spread Christmas joy to other people. He provides figurine sets to local Catholics who need to decorate their nativities.

The priest said the Christmas spirit will bring fresh hopes of ending the contagion and returning to normal life for all people

Luu My parishioners in Nghe An province in northern central Vietnam erected a 20-meter Christmas tree made of some 1,000 worn tires, many of which were left by migrant workers who escaped from southern provinces to avoid Covid-19. A big creche and the church's surroundings are also decorated with worn tires.

Father Anthony Hoang Trung Hoa, pastor of the parish who initiated the special nativity scenes, said they intend to remind people about the dreadful hardship millions of domestic migrants suffered when they traveled by motorbikes from Ho Chi Minh City and other southern provinces to their homes to steer clear of the prolonged pandemic that has had a tremendous impact on the lives of most people, particularly the poor and marginalized.

He said the tire tree is a way to reduce costs of making nativity scenes of local people.

The priest said the Christmas spirit will bring fresh hopes of ending the contagion and returning to normal life for all people.

In the past, the parish erected a big Christmas tree made of 6,000 clay pots produced by local people. The tree aimed to promote local people's traditional trade.

Many churches across the country will hold online Christmas celebrations to contain the contagion that has recently flared up again.

A creche is made of bald tires at Luu My Church in Nghe An province. (Photo courtesy of Trung Hoa Hoang's Facebook)

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