Father Joseph Dinh Huu Thoai, a Redemptorist in Vietnam, recently became the target of verbal attacks and threats after posting critical writings on Facebook.
His writings have raised questions about the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the transparency of the National Covid-19 Vaccine Fund, created in May to purchase vaccines and fund research to produce the vaccine in Vietnam.
The total donations received amounted to US $ 384 million. However, authorities have come under national criticism after calling on officials and government workers to pay the fund a day’s wages. More importantly, the public was also unhappy with the “government’s silence on what was done with interest money in the bank.”
On October 2, the Quang Nam Province TV station aired a report accusing Father Thoai of “sullying and distorting the party and state’s struggle against Covid-19” and of violating the law on cybersecurity.
The priest denied having broken the law because “it is reasonable and legitimate for any citizen to question the transparency of the vaccine fund”.
This is not the first time that a member of the Redemptorist Province of Vietnam has been treated unfairly and accused of being involved in political issues. A few years ago, even the provincial was prevented from leaving the country for having led his colleagues in the defense of the poor against social injustices such as illegal expropriation of land, mining projects and many other environmental problems.
The legitimate constitutional separation of Church and State should not be confused with the separation of religion and politics
Since June 2017, at least three Redemptorists have been banned from traveling abroad for taking sides with the poor.
Father Dwiyaminarta, an Indonesian Redemptorist responsible for the Sarnelli Institute, a Catholic-run legal aid service in Sumba, said that “where there is injustice the Church is called to be involved and to proclaim the good news”. What is true for the Church is also true for Redemptorists.
For some, the teaching of the Church should be limited to the spiritual life. They are uncomfortable with what they call the “politicization of the faith”. The separation of church and state is often misunderstood.
We must not confuse the legitimate constitutional separation of Church and State with the separation of religion and politics. Nothing in constitutions prevents ordinary citizens and public officials from espousing views in the public arena that are informed or motivated by religious beliefs.
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Thus, for Redemptorists, choosing the poor and defending social justice is in keeping with their spirituality and tradition.
In Vietnam, many people label the Redemptorists as “anti-government” while in the northern Philippines they have been “red-marked” and identified as “communist supporters”.
We need clarity. What does political mean? Does it imply a negative meaning, as many people assume? Absolutely not!
To the surprise of many, Pope Francis encourages Catholics to get involved in politics even though it can be “dirty, frustrating and fraught with failure.”
Christian faith is not a private matter that shapes our relationship with God, but how we live our life in public is just as important. Pope Francis affirms that social action and evangelism have an intrinsic relationship.
Religious belief is not limited to private life, but true faith and religious belief must bear credible community witness both in personal and social life: “The Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines of the struggle for Justice. All Christians, including pastors, are called to care about building a better world “(Evangelii Gaudium 183).
The momentum of our times for justice and peace certainly has its roots in the Second Vatican Council. In particular, the document Gaudium et Spes witness to the emergence of social concern as a major center of interest of the Church.
The separation between the spiritual and the social had to be abandoned in favor of a vision of humanity as a whole.
Faith in Jesus requires the Church’s obligation to participate in the formation of the moral character of society. This participation is a fundamental element of the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that “social questions and the Gospel are inseparable”. For this reason, the promotion of justice and peace cannot be an optional dimension of our mission or even less an ideological option (whether on the right or on the left).
Awareness of social commitment is something that we must integrate into our actions because it is inherent in our mission.
The task of evangelization involves and demands the integral promotion of every human being. It is no longer possible to claim that religion should be limited to the private sphere and that it only exists to prepare souls for heaven.
Thus, the disciple of Christ cannot fail to hear the cry of his brother or sister in need.
For us as Redemptorists it is clear that social ministry – justice, peace, and the integrity of creation – is rooted in the theology of the incarnation.
Our founder Saint Alphonsus clearly rejected the privileged place he occupied to take his place among the poor. Alfonso’s preference is that of the Gospel, a gospel of freedom, the Good News of a tender love from a Jesus who “will not break a bruised reed or extinguish a smoking wick until let him bring righteousness to victory “(Matthew 12:20).
We reflect on the great love of Saint Alphonsus for the mystery of the Incarnation, which did not remain simply a disembodied devotion of reality but took its best expression in the love and the option that Jesus made for the poor. and the abandoned.
For us as Redemptorists, it is clear that social ministry – justice, peace, and the integrity of creation – is rooted in the theology of the Incarnation: God becoming man and sharing the pain of mankind. It is one of the many elements of our spirituality that binds us to the realities of the wounded world as it bound our Founder.
As heirs and continuers of the charismatic intuition and of the theological and pastoral heritage of Saint Alphonsus, we seek to remain faithful to our mission while adapting to the dramatic and changing realities that surround us in a constant docility to l ‘Spirit of the Redeemer. .
This attitude requires a careful reading of the signs of the times, of the Holy Scriptures and of our tradition in order to respond to the urgent challenges of the world today.
Social challenges, which are at the same time global challenges, demand greater connection and solidarity between Redemptorists of different units. There is a great need to make more explicit the links of our mission with the values of social justice and to show the relevance of our charism in today’s world.
From the start, our constitutions have emphasized an option for the most abandoned. For Redemptorists, healing a wounded world means helping to build a more harmonious world, especially for the most vulnerable in our society.
This work is very much in line with our constitutions, which state that our mission is characterized by service to people, especially “those people and groups who are poor and most neglected in the Church and in society” .
More recently, our General Chapters have called for a renewal of our commitment to the poor; to evangelize the poor, as many of our confreres say, that the poor are the priority of our mission.
The most recent chapter added that Redemptorists are called to “embrace the present with hope and go out to the peripheries so that the freshness of the Kingdom may reach everyone, especially the most vulnerable and abandoned.”
It is a phrase that caused a lot of difficulty. Even those who have no difficulty with the phrase itself find it difficult to explain.
Social ministry can be viewed as a spiritual force that integrates all of our work fronts such as mission, preaching, academics, and sacramental ministry.
When we support the poor, when we show solidarity with them, when we accompany them, we begin to hear the Good News in a new way, to be struck by its message as if it were the first time. He is in a real sense evangelized again.
Social ministry can be viewed as a spiritual force that integrates all of our work fronts such as mission, preaching, academics, and sacramental ministry. For this reason, it is essential to integrate social commitment into all our apostolic actions.
Thus, we can affirm that social commitment is a dimension of our spirituality and of our mission today and must be an effective expression of our charism in a wounded world.
In summary, Redemptorists should always be at the forefront of serving the poor, marginalized and exploited as part of their mission to proclaim the Good News of justice, peace and freedom for all.
Jesus said of his apostle: “Where I am, there also will be my servant” (Jn 12:29). This statement applies to Saint Alphonsus: as Christ was in his mission to the poor, so his disciple Alfonso was sent to the poor and sanctified in this sending.
For our Redemptorist evangelistic work to be effective, we must realize and take seriously the forces that structure our lives in all parts of our world.
According to the General Secretariat for Evangelization, the fact of globalization is a reality that affects lives everywhere. Our world is experiencing violence, acts of terrorism, anger and wars like never before. Modern technology and communication bring these realities into our homes. Fear is experienced all over the world. The work of evangelization must take this modern reality very seriously.
Redemptorists must always keep in mind the concern for social justice because it is not only our charism but the demand for evangelization that is deeply rooted in the Gospel and the teachings of the Church.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.