Christmas in Thái Bình: medicine and spiritual support for more than 5,000 people with disabilities and leprosy
by Ngoc Lan

More than 5,600 people and more than 1,000 volunteers took part in the Christmas Congress organised by the local diocese. Almost 500 people with leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) were examined and received drugs for free. For Bishop Nguyễn Văn Đệ, even with different faiths, humans have a common Creator and a paradise.

Thái Bình (AsiaNews) – For Catholics in the Diocese of Thái Bình, in the coastal province with the same name in northern Vietnam, the Christmas season provided an opportunity to renew their commitment to disabled people and people on the margins of society.

The local Church has been doing this via a number of initiatives that offer material and spiritual support, comfort, moments of sharing and medical assistance.

For the 18th consecutive year, the Diocese and its bishop, Mgr Phêrô (Peter) Nguyễn Văn Đệ, organised a Christmas Congress for the disabled on 14-16 December at the Bishopric’s General House (Nhà Chung) with the participation of over 5,600 disabled people and more than 1,000 volunteers.

In addition to Thái Bình, participants came from 100 social units or centres in other northern provinces like Nam Định, Hưng Yên, Ninh Bình, Thái Nguyên, Bắc Ninh and Hải Dương.

On the first day, the medical staff (Catholic and non-Catholic doctors and nurses) provided free medical examinations and medicines to more than 500 leprosy patients. The volunteers came from Hà Nội, Ho Chi Minh City (Sài Gòn) and Thái Bình, as well as the Diocese of Incheon, South Korea.

Mgr Mario Michiaki Yamanouchi, Bishop of Saitama (Japan), took part in the outreach. Children and young people from the local Diocese got patients involved in recreational, cultural and sporting activities over the other two days.

The latter culminated in a Mass celebrated by Mgr Nguyễn Văn Đệ on 15 December, attended by other bishops, priests, religious and seminarians.

During the service, the assembled congregation recited a special prayer for those who are sick, disabled and suffering. Unlike other years, the faithful were able to listen to some "lessons on the Word of God” given by the prelates.

In particular, Mgr Giuse (Joseph) Châu Ngọc Tri, Bishop of Cao Bằng-Lạng Sơn, stressed the importance God gave to humanity by sending his Son to earth.

Mgr Yamanouchi said he was very happy to attend the event organised by the local diocese. “I wish Thái Bình and Saitama become more united in fraternal spirit.”

Bishop Nguyễn Văn Đệ summed up the experience of the Congress, saying: "We have been together, sharing joys and sorrows, preparing to celebrate Christmas.

“We invite you, as well as those who do not have the same belief, to share Christmas, for we have a common paradise, a common Creator, a common earth and a common atmosphere whose air we breathe.”

“We have a lot in common. There are joys and sorrows in life. We also have parents and ancestors, as well as happiness, sadness and injustice in our life. So let us hope to have a peaceful and happy life.

“Finally,” he noted, “Jesus came to earth to love and save us. You, brothers and sisters, should strongly believe that.”