To avoid contagions, the Archdiocese of Hồ Chí Minh City suspended Masses. Churches, chapels and religious communities remain open for prayers and worship. The Pope’s universal prayer and Urbi et Orbi blessing moved many.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The coronavirus outbreak has upturned the religious life of many Vietnamese Catholics. Masses have been suspended and churches remain open only for Eucharistic worship and individual prayer. Nevertheless, believers enthusiastically and with great devotion joined the Pope’s prayers for the victims of COVID-19.
Over the past few days, the number of cases has increased significantly in Vietnam. This morning, local health authorities have confirmed a total of 194 cases, with 52 patients healed.
Last week Lê Thanh Liêm, deputy chairman of the Hồ Chí Minh City People's Committee, announced that “As of 6.00 pm on 24 March, all restaurants with more than 30 seats, billiard rooms, gyms, spas and barbershops will remain closed until 31 March, to counter the spread of Wuhan pandemic pneumonia.”
The following day Archbishop Joseph Nguyễn Năng of Hồ Chí Minh City (ex-Saigon) informed the faithful that all religious activities in the archdiocese would be suspended as of 4 pm 26 March until further notice. However, churches, chapels and religious communities would remain open to allow Catholics to pray and worship the Blessed Sacrament.
“Parish priests will continue to celebrate daily Eucharistic services in the name of the Church,” said Mgr Năng “praying and asking God to extend His mercy to the world.” However, “Priests will say Mass without people. Every day, the faithful will be able to watch services on live TV at 5.30 am and 5:30 pm. Registration can be found on the website of the Archdiocese of Saigon.”
Thanks to the internet, millions of Catholics across Vietnam were able to follow the universal prayer and Urbi et Orbi blessing, which Pope Francis recited on 27 March (6 pm Rome time, 11 pm in Vietnam) on the parvis of St Peter’s basilica.
Many were moved by the image of the elderly pontiff, in the rain, in an empty square, between the icon of Our Lady Salus populi romani and the Christ "of miracles". His speech was translated into Vietnamese in real time.
“I cried when I saw Pope Francis walking in the night, while the rain fell,” said Maria Ngọc. “I silently told myself: ‘We really love the Holy Father. Oh! My Jesus, I thank God who gave us a common Father.”
The pontiff, she added, “always thinks about today's world to accompany us in the suffering of this health crisis. Dear God, please change our hearts so that we can overcome today's difficulties. May God strengthen those who suffer from Wuhan pneumonia.”
Kim Anh, in Hồ Chí Minh City, reacted to Pope's reflection saying “Good God! I always believe that You alone can end this cruel pandemic. We always rely on Your hand.”
For Lê Hoàng Nghĩa, “Through this catastrophic pandemic, we can clearly recognise our own weakness and smallness before the power of the God we worship. Our extravagance and pride have no meaning. Today, through the prayers of the Holy Father Francis, may God grant peace to the whole world to overcome the crisis of the Wuhan pandemic.”