Advent in Vietnam, the Church close to the poor and the disabled
by Thanh Thuy

Mgr Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident papal representative to Vietnam, visited the sick and the disabled in Hanoi. Following his example, the local Caritas, religious congregations and hundreds of student volunteers organised charity activities for the downtrodden, including providing basic necessities to Hà Tĩnh fishermen, the most affected by the Formosa Plastics Group disaster.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese Church has set aside the Advent period to care for the downtrodden bottom, the poor and the disabled.

Mgr Leopoldo Girelli, non-resident papal representative to Vietnam, led by the example by visiting the sick in ten dioceses of the Archdiocese of Hanoi (northern Vietnam)

The bishop’s first stop was at Hanoi’s Eye Hospital, where he met patients in the surgery ward, and gave them encouragement and prayed the rosary with them.

Mgr Girelli and Fr Bruno Phạm Bá Quế, head of Caritas Hanoi, donated wheelchairs for disabled people in the provinces of Nam Định and Hà Nam.

The papal representative congratulated Caritas for working with local groups, like the Red Cross of Ý Yên district, Thích Thanh Mạch Buddhist monks and the Wheelchairs Association of Vietnamese residents in the United States.

Accompanied by members of the Tim Diem congregation, Mgr Girelli’s final stop was with some groups of homeless and poor people living on the banks of the Sông Hồng (Red River) in Hanoi.

Last Saturday, Mgr Joseph Ngo Quang Kiệt, archbishop emeritus of Hanoi, visited Yên Đông parish (Hà Tĩnh Province, central Vietnam), the most affected by the Formosa Plastics Group environmental disaster.

The prelate handed out gifts to local fishermen who lost their jobs and are living in precarious conditions.

Mgr Ngô Quang Kiệt was accompanied by members of the Châu Sơn monastery and the Sisters of the congregation of Saint Paul from the Diocese of Ninh Binh. A group of US doctors brought medicines and blankets, and offered free medical visits to the residents.

Mgr Joseph Ngo Quang Kiệt celebrated Mass in the parish church in the presence of 200 worshippers.

"Yên Đông Parish has had countless difficult years,” the archbishop said, “but now, I am sure, it is experiencing the love of Jesus for us.”

“God can do anything, even what we cannot imagine,” he explained. “We think we are lost, but now we have a new church at Christmas time. We have God and the Virgin Mary who are always by our side. Today we are happy and at peace. God needs human collaboration."

Following the examples of Mgr Girelli and archbishop emeritus of Hanoi, many Catholic students are organising charity activities during Advent.

Last Saturday, the community of Saint Paul in Hiệp Đức Parish (central Vietnam), along with 200 young volunteers, brought gifts, bags of rice, boxes with ready-to-eat noodles, cooking oil, sugar and pasties to hundreds of poor and disabled people.

“These are our Christmas gifts,” the students told AsiaNews. “During the year, we crafted handmade things and grew flowers, which we sold to raise funds. With the money we bought basic necessities for the poor, Catholic and non-Catholic."