07/07/2014, 00.00
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Saigon: thousands of youth attend summer camps, educational centres against society's materialism

by Thanh Thuy
Vietnamese bishops renew their pastoral and social commitment to stem the breakdown of families and boost the value of sharing. Between June and September, parishes in Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese offer fun activities and moments of prayer, places where children can "spend the summer" and "nurture their talents".

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - In an era of growing materialism and economic development that disrupts society, Vietnam's bishops have refocused attention on the family and children.

The recent territorial disputes with China, the government's growth targets, its capitalist logic within a socialist political model have led to a deeper rift in society.

Parental separation and divorce are up, as are child abuse, abortion among young people, human trafficking and the commercialisation of the female body, together with crime in the city.

In response to the crisis of models and values, the Vietnamese Bishops' Conference reactivated a pastoral plan for the end of June dedicated to families and young people.

Mgr Tri Ngọc Châu Joseph, president of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of the Family, launched the initiative. For him, "children are a gift from God for our family", whilst "marriage and children are the ultimate end" of a Catholic family and children need "love, care and attention."

Planned activities include summer camps for children and teens sponsored by the Archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of the country, open to thousands of Vietnamese youth and the children of immigrants.

Part of a three-year pastoral plan for the years 2014-2016 launched by Cardinal JB Pham Minh Man in October 2013, summer camps began in June until late August.

On 29 June, activities at Binh An Ha Parish (Archdiocese of Saigon) began under Fr Joseph Van Trinh Vien, the local parish priest. They follow suggestions that the pastoral centre should be like a "big family" to serve its 8,000 members, including about a thousand children and hundreds of immigrants.

On 1 July, the "House of Prayer" for children was inaugurated at Thon Ba Parish, a healthy environment where children can "spend the summer" and at the same time "nurture their talents."

For seven years, the vicar at the Binh An Thuong Parish has promoted summer pastoral and social activities aimed at children. For 2014, the priest created the 'happy summer programme', open to thousands of children and based on three particular elements: participating together at Mass, promoting recreational and fun activities, and sharing lunch.

The centre is open especially for the poorest and most disadvantaged children. "I like to participate in activities for children sponsored by the parish," said 12-year-old Hung. "The volunteers are like older brothers and sisters. The group of Catholic Moms gives love and attention. I do my best to become a better person for my family and for the church."

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