01/14/2017, 15.49
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Following Pope Francis, the archdiocese of Saigon promotes the pastoral care of migrants

by Thanh Thuy

A few days ago, Catholics in Ho Chi Minh City began a week dedicated to migrants. Thousands of people took part in meetings, roundtables, seminars, and services. The archbishop of Saigon notes that migrants are "the first missionaries of the Church." A nun tells AsiaNews that the diocesan initiative offers an opportunity to raise issues and hear the views.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – The Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City has responded to Pope Francis’s appeal and sponsored a week for migrants with the participation of thousands of people, Catholics and non-Catholics.

Titled ‘Immigrants who live with the joy of a family and a missionary’, the initiative is part of a series of activities planned for the World Day of Migrants on 15 January 2017. 

As the pontiff noted, war, poverty, economics, education, and employment have amplified the phenomenon migration, which now covers all age groups.

In view of this situation, the world’s Churches have called for action on behalf of migrants, breaking down the wall of silence, insensitivity, and – at times – outright hostility towards them.

Based on these premises, the archdiocese decided to dedicate a whole week to issues concerning the pastoral care of migrants, including internal migrants, in seminars, meetings, discussions, roundtables, convivial moments and prayers.

The diocese brought together 260 students from the St Joseph's Seminary, as well as religious, nuns and lay migrants.

As part of the week-long activities, some 30 small groups – also composed of seminarians – analysed and explained to the participants Pope Francis' message for World Day of Migrants.

Discussions followed with analyses of the most serious and pressing problems migrants face, even internal migrants who move within the country seeking employment.

There were moments of prayer and communal celebrations, as well as solemn Masses for the opening and closing of the week of migrants.

In his homily the archbishop of Ho Chi Minh City, Mgr Phaolô Bùi Văn Đọc, stressed that migrants are the first "missionaries of the Church."

The pope, the prelate noted, "reminded us that in our missionary life we ​​must love children. So, we should not let the little ones be abandoned and abused.”

In view of this, “Over the coming years (2017-2020), the Church is planning for its family pastoral outreach. This is why you need to prepare to be agents of happiness for yourselves and others."

Speaking to AsiaNews, a nun from the Congregation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of the Apostles said that the diocesan initiative has provided "opportunities for young migrants to raise issues and make their opinions heard."

For her, the meetings devoted to environmental issues according to the guidelines outlined by the Pope on the subject were of particular value.

One of the participants was a migrant woman named Maria Hồ Thi T. She has lived in southern Vietnam’s largest city since 1999, after moving from her native Hà Tĩnh province.

When she spoke she he did not hide the fact that she faced major problems when she arrived, including a sense of abandonment, but she had trust in God to deal with her problems.

"We live far away from our homes and families,” she explained. “We don’t have a lot of money but we are rich in spirit and morals. I prayed to God every day. In the Mass and in the Church I found the strength to go on."

Other internal migrants face similar everyday problems, people like Maria Thi Nguyễn X, 19, who moved to the city, once known as Saigon, right after high school.

"When I lived at home my parents thought of everything,” she said. “I felt loved and cared for in their hands. Now, I have to face difficulties first-hand. I have to earn a living on my own. And the city hides many traps."

Urban drift sped up Vietnam around 1987 and today much of the country’s population of 90.4 million lives in the main urban areas.

For example, the Greater Ho Chi Minh City area alone now has a population of 12 million, 7 million natives and 5 million immigrants.

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