12/24/2014, 00.00
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Christmas among the poor fishermen of Thanh Hoa

by Thanh Thuy
Many fishermen have lost their job. Fishing in the river is hard because of pollution and waste. For Bishop Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh, Christmas is a season accompanied by works of charity for anyone, Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Mission and charity are the two paths the faithful in the diocese of Than Hoa must trod, urged their bishop, Mgr Joseph Nguyen Chi Linh.

For Advent and Christmas, the prelate called on his priests and faithful to visit the poor, the elderly, the sick, and the children, bringing gifts without discrimination between Catholics and non-Catholics.

The bishop himself visited An Loc Parish a few days ago. The community of some 800 members is very poor, made up mostly of people who used to work for a river transport cooperative (the parish and city of Than Hoa are divided by the Ma River).

The cooperative was forced to close and people now have to earn a living from fishing.

However, this has become harder because of river pollution. Often the only thing found in the river is waste.

For the river people, life seems so precarious, an existence on the edge, like a thick layer of waste floating on the waters of the Ma River.

Still, for the faithful, the visit by the bishop and the Charitable and Social Committee has brought great encouragement.

"The bishop is really a noble shepherd who brings hope to the poor of the province," a student in the parish told AsiaNews.

The Diocese of Thanh Hoa is located in northern Vietnam. It is home to about 140,000 Catholics out of a population of 3.8 million. Most of the faithful are poor, living in marginal areas.

Inspired by Pope Francis, Mgr Nguyen Chi Linh, called on all Christians to "announce the birth of Jesus" through the "awakening of the faith" and "concern for the poor."

"Christmas," he added, "is happiness and joy for everyone." What is more, "In our diocese, Christmas is a time accompanied by works of charity."

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