For Saigon archbishop, migration and materialism are the pastoral challenges in secularised big cities
by Trung Tin
Mgr Paul Bùi Văn độc is in Barcelona, ​​Spain, for the International Pastoral Congress on the World's Big Cities. The prelate spoke to AsiaNews about the danger of family breakdowns, highlighting the role the laity can play in the Church's mission. In 2015, the Vietnamese bishops' conference is set to promote a pastoral ministry specifically for migrants.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - The "secularisation" of local churches, the impact of "modern society" on people's lives, in particular the faithful, which distorts the educational system, and the "temptation of money" are the main pastoral challenges for the Church, this according to Mgr Paul Bùi Văn độc, archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, who spoke to AsiaNews.

For the prelate, who is currently in Barcelona, ​​Spain, taking part with a small group of cardinals and bishops in the International Pastoral Congress on the World's Big Cities, parishes have the task of reviving true values ​​and the laity must get more involved.

Like many large cities in the world, even old Saigon is facing the new challenges of globalisation, growing materialism, family breakdowns and rising migration as people move in search of jobs and better living conditions.

At the conference, the archbishop, who also chairs the Bishops' Conference of Vietnam, plans to "listen to the experts and share experiences in pastoral activity" starting with the examples taken from today's Vietnam.

He noted that "all 26 of the country's dioceses and all its parishes" are committed to pastoral work, including "many varied activities" in "both large cities, as well as rural areas".

The family has always been "the main cell" of Vietnamese society, the prelate explained. However, many families are negatively impacted by the "market economy and consumerism," which have caused internal divisions and the "destruction" of entire families.

This is why the Vietnamese bishops' conference has dedicated 2014 to the "evangelisation in families", whilst next year, the focus will be on "New evangelisation in the parishes."

In order to meet the challenges of the big cities, priests, the clergy and religious "must show patience in their work," Mgr Paul told AsiaNews; hence the need to "focus" on parishes, which is linked to the promotion of those, "men and women, who dedicate themselves to the consecrated life."

For Vietnamese Catholics, who today mark the feast day of the martyrs, "the main challenge is the secularisation of local Churches", as people adopt a lifestyle based on consumerism and materialism, which "are worming their way into the Church".

This, according to the archbishop of Saigon, is compounded by "the growing impact of 'modern society', which is distorting "the education system and causing social problems."

Such a problem is exacerbated by the government's excessive focus on "economic development" at the expense of other factors "like education, traditional culture, values ​​and norms."

For Mgr Paul Bùi Văn độc, the crisis of values ​​ makes the role of parishes even more important. It is they in fact who are called to revive "traditional values ​​and culture" and work to rebuild the family.

Lastly, the prelate warned of the dangers caused by the "temptation of money", which spares no one.

Since 1987, when Vietnam's Communist regime opened up the economy to market forces, people have been moving to the cities in search of employment, money, and career options.

"The urbanisation process affects all of the country's major cities," the archbishop of Saigon said. For this reason, in 2015 the Bishops' Conference will focus "on migration to the big cities, a trend that also touches Catholics". The latter in fact need "material and spiritual support, but above all they need to listen to the word of God."

In order to meet the challenges of the future, the prelate stressed the fundamental role of the laity. In his view, lay people are still "too timid" and their contribution is "still too modest." Nevertheless, he is hopeful that they will get involved "in the missionary journey in Vietnam," following the example and guidelines set by Pope Francis.