03/18/2020, 14.03
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As the authorities confirm 67 coronavirus cases, Catholics observe Lent in emergency mode

by Thanh Thuy

Infected people live in 13 of the country’s 63 provinces. COVID-19 is highly infectious. The Church has called on the faithful to engage in responsible behaviour and respect government orders. Priests will be able to return to celebrate penitential rites and collective confessions starting next 29 March.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Vietnam’s Health Ministry confirmed a new case of coronavirus infection this morning, bringing the number of infected people to 67 in 13 of the country’s 63 provinces.

Yesterday, the government suspended new visas for foreign nationals to curb the spread of the coronavirus. For their part, Catholic communities have joined the efforts of the authorities but continue to observe Lent and prepare for Easter despite the emergency.

Some dioceses have taken some effective measures to protect the health of the faithful, requiring them to wear protective masks and sit at a distance from each other during Mass.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, stands out for its high level of infection. In just one week, a patient identified as D infected six people in Bình Thuận province.

In the same coastal region in south-eastern Vietnam, patient Nº 34 passed the virus to nine other people; but the number is expected to increase due to the number of people who had contacts with this person.

Health authorities have identified two cases of “super infectors”.  One is a woman identified as NTD, who returned to Vietnam on 17 January after two months in Wuhan on a training course.

Since the early days of the coronavirus emergency, the Church has called on Catholics to engage in socially responsible behaviour and follow the instructions of the authorities.

In the parishes, pastors have urged the faithful to stay at home if they show flu symptoms or came into contact with people suspected of infection.

The Vietnamese clergy appealed for responsible self-isolation. The faithful are not required to attend Sunday Mass, but they can still take part in spiritual communion with prayers and works of charity from their homes.

In order to avoid gatherings, collective penitential rites are not recommended. Families and individuals are invited to spend Lent praying and fasting at home.

In case of utmost necessity, priests can confess people in private, taking the following precautions: priest and parishioner must wear protective masks, confessionals must have safety curtains, and, alternatively, the faithful can confess their sins by writing them on paper.

Recently, Archbishop Giuse (Joseph) Nguyễn Năng of Ho Chi Minh City (ex-Saigon), said that Catholics can follow Eucharistic celebrations online, as aid to being close to the spirit of the liturgy.

At the same time, the Episcopal Office explained that watching the Mass online can never replace personal liturgical participation.

The bishop also asked priests to explain the concept clearly to the laity, to avoid misunderstandings and equivocal thoughts (tư tưởng đánh đồng).

Priests will be able to return to celebrate penitential rites and collective confessions as of 29 March.

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