Basic communities and social activities help the renewal of the Vietnamese Church
by Trung Tin
A Vietnamese delegation attends the Congress of Lay Catholics in Asia in Seoul. Between persecution and martyrdom, the faithful keep the Church’s presence alive. Pastoral tasks are coupled with social action in favour of the poor, the sick, orphans and AIDS children.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Through its basic communities, the Catholic Church of Vietnam has pursued its mission and announced the Good News, setting up social and charitable activities to help the needy, especially children. Vietnamese Catholics in the last few decades have had to endure harsh repression and religious freedom continues to be violated, but the mission of evangelisation continues, and each year many conversions and baptisms multiply.

Inspired by such a spirit, Vietnamese delegates travelled to the Congress of Lay Catholics in Asia, which got underway on 31 August until 5 September in Seoul (South Korea). Some 400 people from across the continent are attending the event.

The meeting is even more significant for Vietnamese Catholics who celebrated their Church’s Jubilee marking 350 years (1659-2009) since it was founded and 50 years after the Catholic hierarchy was established.

Today, the country’s Catholic Church has 1 cardinal, 2 archbishops, 41 bishops, 3,000 parish priests and over 6 million members. Since the Catholic hierarchy was set up, it has risen and fallen, confronted difficulties, sometimes very complex and delicate ones.

Starting in 1960, the Church has rapidly expanded, inspired by its 177 martyrs and 12,000 faithful strong in their faith.

When the Communists took over, congregations and communities were divided into smaller groups; persecution and violence increased. However, the emergence of basic communities has given Catholics the means to continue their missionary work and announce the Good News, especially to the people and the minorities living in the high plateaus of central Vietnam, in the remotest corners of the land and in mountain parishes.

Beside its pastoral work, the Church has also become involved in social affairs to help the weakest groups in society, especially children. Catholics have taught catechism, helped the needy, the disabled, and their families.

Through the work of many volunteers, thousands of children living with HIV-AIDS have been treated and cared for.

In Ho Chi Minh City, about 2,500 orphans and vulnerable children can rely on the Church for help.

This year alone, hundreds of thousands of children and adults were baptised and embraced the Catholic faith in the country’s 26 dioceses.