Coronavirus: prayers and help for Sơn Lôi, a municipality isolated for the past 14 days
by Paul Nguyen Hung

Six of Vietnam’s 16 cases are in this town. Some 1,300 Catholics live in the municipality of more than 10,000 people. A young priest volunteered to help. The faithful are praying for the end of the world-wide emergency. “We hope that these sacred moments will not only heal bodies, but also our souls,” says parishioner.


Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese Catholics began Lent by praying and providing help the people of Sơn Lôi, a municipality in Bình Xuyên district (northern province of Vĩnh Phúc) that is facing a difficult situation after provincial authorities placed it under a 20-day lockdown, starting on 13 February, after six local residents tested positive for the Covid-19 virus.

In all, there are 16 cases in Vietnam, all of them in of Vĩnh Phúc, a province that comes under the Diocese of Bắc Ninh. The town of Sơn Lôi, which has 10,600 residents, is home to 1,300 Catholics divided into two small communities that live around the churches in Bá Cầu and Ngọc Bảo, north and south of the municipal area. Both belong to Hữu Bằng parish.

On 15 February, Bắc Ninh Episcopal Office and Caritas shipped 1,000 masks, 200 bottles of disinfectant fluid, and medicines to the parish church, but not enough for everyone. For this reason, Bishop Cosma Hoàng Văn Đat of Bắc Ninh called on the people of the diocese to pray for Sơn Lôi; priests and religious looked for benefactors and people who could help out. Since then, Catholics across the country have been sending basic items every day.

In his pastoral letter for Lent, released two days ago, Mgr Đat speaks about the testimony of faith and charity of a young diocesan priest.

“Fr Joseph Hoàng Trọng Hữu was born in 1985,” writes the bishop. “Currently, he is assigned to Lai Tê parish but has volunteered to serve and help the 1,300 Catholics of Sơn Lôi.” He “is involved in pastoral work, caring for the souls of the faithful with the Sacraments like the anointing of the sick.”

Mgr Đat is grateful to provincial authorities, who have “created the necessary conditions, so that Fr Hữu could get to the area under lockdown to work and help people.”

For the past week, the two small communities in Bá Cầu and Ngọc Bảo have taken important sanitation measures like disinfecting homes and streets.

In Sơn Lôi everyone, Catholic and non-Catholic, is aware of what is needed to keep people, families and the whole community healthy. Each resident wears a mask when in the company of others.

Local Catholics are also fighting the spread of the virus with prayers. On 20 February, the priest of Ngọc Bảo kept the church open between 5 and 8 am to allow the faithful to worship the Blessed Sacrament, but also to pray for an end to the health emergency and for peace in Sơn Lôi and all the countries of the world afflicted by the virus.

“In recent days, the faithful came to the church and parish complex to do the cleaning,” said Maria, a parishioner in Hữu Bằng. “Now they come to pray, forming small groups: children, young people, adults and the elderly. People come to church to pray to Jesus and Our Lady. We hope that these sacred moments will not only heal bodies, but also our souls”