Hanoi (AsiaNews) – For Vietnams Catholics, Ash Wednesday coincides with the beginning of Tet, the new Lunar Year. The bishops are encouraging the faithful to help the poor celebrate the festivities as a gesture of concrete charity on the first day of Lent.
Even though the country's Gross Domestic Product grew 8.5 % in 2007, poverty still affects over 14.7% of the population. Natural disasters including typhoons and flooding killed thousands people and injured thousands others during the course of the year. Added to this, the country is also facing foot and mouth disease, which has killed thousands of animals.
Religious leaders are concerned that many Vietnamese will suffer greatly during this period of Tet, when the cost of basic goods increases: they fear that many do not even have enough food for their daily meal.
In Hai Phong, Fr. John Baptist Vu Van Kien reported that the diocese had launched a charity plan to give 6,000 kg of rice to poor families in the province. Charity groups in parishes helped distribute in the metropolitan and rural areas. “The amount of rice to be distributed to each family was not a whole lot”, said Vincent Kien from Hai Phong, “but by sharing this gift with the poor, the underprivileged, the bishop and his priests had brought warmth to their hearts as much as food to their stomachs, especially during the last days of the lunar new year when the weather is cold and families are gathering to celebrate the coming of a new year.”
Bishop Joseph Vu Van Thien of Hai Phong, was said to be sending gifts to leprosy patients at Chi Linh Leprosarium in Hai Duong province during the upcoming Tet festival. Also, “Recycle for Humanity”, a volunteer group, working actively in the diocese, will bring gifts to HIV patients, poor families and children who are attending classes funded and operated by the diocese. For each individual and for every family it has become a tradition to offer something to others as a way of welcoming in the new year, brining as much warmth and happiness as possible to the poor and sick.
In Thai Binh diocese, Bishop Francis Nguyen Van Sang has urged his faithful to promote social and charitable works in the Tet festival. “Every parish”, he said “should participate in this project by observing and making a list of families in need. Subsequently a visit to these families will be made in order to provide them with material and or spiritual assistance. Also being highly encouraged is the participation in movements beneficial to social welfare such as building houses for the needy, aiding the flood victims, visiting patients with HIV”.