12/24/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Christmas of charity for 6,000 Catholics in Lang Son diocese

by JB. Vu
More than 6,000 faithful live across an area of 25,000 km2. Christmas is a time to help those in need, especially the poor and the young. The Church reaches even the remotest regions on the border with China. We tell everyone that God comes “to live among us and put an end to our anguish,” the bishop of Lang Son said.
Lang Son (AsiaNews) – The days before Christmas for the 6,000 Catholics who live in the huge diocese of Lang Son are a time of mutual assistance and help for the poor and the young. It includes giving books and scholarships to needy students as well as rice, clothes, medicine, drinking water and mosquito nets to the poor.

Mgr Dang Duc Ngan, bishop of Lang Son, heads this community since 2007. He and 13 diocesan priests, six missionaries from four different religious orders and 28 nuns travel around a diocese that covers 25,000 km2 and three provinces to meet their flock. About 1.5 million people live there, many from poor ethnic minorities (Khin, Tay, Nung, Thai, Tho, Meo, Giao, Nhang) known as Montagnard.

On the coming of Christmas, missionary activities in Lang Son mean small acts of daily charity for everyone. That includes 246 Catholics in Ha Giang province, 400 kilometres from the Bishop’s See.

After years of war and oppression by the authorities, the former can experience Advent today with renewed hope, encouraged by the sight of their small but growing community.

For Catholics in Ha Giang like those scattered in provinces on the border with China, Christmas means getting help from the community at large and the clergy.

Some time ago, the diocesan Caritas began small projects to help all the faithful, not only those in the more remote areas. That includes sending medicine to health centres as well as digging wells to bring water to residents who would otherwise have to travel 15 kilometres to get it. The Church has also launched microcredit initiatives that allow villagers to buy cattle, chickens or goats to improve their domestic economies.

“Advent brings the idea that something is coming, God who enters the heart of our existence, coming to live among us and put an end to our anguish,” Mgr Dang Duc Ngan said.

This is why help for the diocese’s poor intensifies as Christmas gets closer. Mosquito nets, new clothes, books are but small gifts, but for some, they are only one they are going to get. They remember the coming of Christmas—“about which everyone must rejoice, the bishop said—because only participating in this joy can they discover the supreme blessing of creation.”

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