Advent prayers and charity for the poor and the sick in Phan Thiết
For Bishop Giuse Đỗ Mạnh Hùng, prayers are needed to overcome the “plague” of the COVID-19 pandemic. Material and psychological aid is given to HIV-positive people. Caritas has provided food parcels for those who have nothing to eat. In recent years the number of children with HIV has tripled.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Bishop Giuse (Joseph) Đỗ Mạnh Hùng of Phan Thiết, a coastal port city in Bình Thuận province (southern Vietnam), has called for prayers and charitable action to help the people struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic around the world (and Vietnam), those living with HIV/AIDS, and the victims of recent flooding in the country’s central provinces.
In a pastoral letter to the faithful on the occasion of Christmas, the prelate speaks of a “very difficult moment” that must be faced “by praying every day against this plague, not forgetting the suffering of the poor” who are “our brothers,” to cite Pope Francis.
Many families in the diocese are putting up replicas of the Nativity grotto at home, in gardens, on the streets and in public parks. However, the festive atmosphere is overshadowed by the global pandemic and pre-existing health emergencies, such as HIV, which continue to spread and affect various regions of Vietnam.
In Phan Thiết, the local Caritas is responsible for one of the various initiatives for Advent, namely prayer meetings and charity work in favour of HIV-positive or AIDS patients at the Our Lady of Tapao centre.
According to the provincial health department, at the end of 2019, 6,245 people had AIDS out of a population of 1.36 million. The number is rising among the very young, including children under 16 whose figure is three times that of 2011 and who need more care and psychological support.
Sister Vân Anh is one most active people in the fight against HIV, supporting people with the infection. She heads the “Support Committee for H+people”, which raises awareness about the rights and duties of the sick, as well as about public health policies.
The committee organises seminars to provide practical and psychological help to those in need, she explains. “After the seminars and work sessions, group members go to pray to Our Lady on Mount Tapao,” she said.
Nguyễn Đình T. is one the people helped by Catholics. He said he prayed to Our Lady asking her to “help me overcome my addiction. I have not taken drugs for two days; I called on Our Lady to help me have the strength and confidence to win against myself.”
The Sisters are especially involved with the children of the provincial orphanage, who need personal protection amid the growing difficulties faced by seniors, migrants, workers and the sick caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The work of Catholic volunteers is also benefiting ethnic Chơ-Ro who live in Hà Văn parish where Caritas has provided them with rice, food packages, masks, and disinfectants.
“We are so happy,” said one of the youth who got the aid. “Since the start of the pandemic, this is the first time we have received rice. Many young people have become unemployed, but thanks to the Sisters our families can have some food for at least five or six days.”