04/21/2008, 00.00
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For more than 20 years, the mission continues among the islands of Can Gio

The archipelago constitutes the poorest and most isolated district of Ho Chi Minh City. It now counts a thousand Catholics, out of almost 60,000 inhabitants. The Redemptorists are sending social and cultural activists, and have built a small boat dock.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Can Gio is the poorest and most isolated of the 22 districts of Ho Chi Minh City.  The Catholic Church, although it is in the minority, is also present in this area that is in need of social, economic, and cultural transformation in order to keep up with the progress of the nation in its current phase of industrialisation.  For more than 20 years priests, religious, sisters, and laity have been offering their service, bringing the Good News.

The district of Can Gio stretches over an archipelago of more than 60 islands, dispersed in an area of 691.2 square kilometres.  According to statistics, 58,000 people live there.  The Buddhists have 850 faithful and three pagodas; the Dao Cao Dai - the third largest Vietnamese religion, with syncretistic elements of various faiths - have 3,100 followers and three chapels; the Hoa Hao Buddhists have about 30 members; and there are 1,000 Catholics, with three churches.

Fr Diep, priest of the parish of Can Thanh, tells AsiaNews that his church has "360 Christians, roughly 3% among the 9,500 inhabitants; at Dong Hoa Parish, 100 Christians out of 7,000 inhabitants; at Tam Thong Hiep parish, 200 Christians, 4%, out of the population of 5,000 inhabitants and  An Thoi Dong Parish, 340 new Christians and  80 catechumens, out  of 9,000 inhabitants but without a chapel. The rest of Can Gio’s population subscribe to ancestor cults or veneration of their villages' founding mandarins.”

Fr Diep and the congregation of the Redemptorists have worked here, helping poor people, since 1985.  In order to address the social, cultural, and economic necessities of the needy population, in 1986 the Thanh Tam Centre for social work was built.  Through social, cultural, and economic activities, it also promotes missionary and pastoral action.

Fr Conh, a young priest who carries out pastoral activities in the district of Can Gio, recounts that "There are two schools for disabled children in Can Thanh and An Thoi Dong Villages, also bringing help to other disabled at home, who have no access to schooling. Beside, we help homeless elderly people, setting up a dispensary for free medical examination and distribution. We have a small boat dock to build and repair boats, providing work for the poor of the district".

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