HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — In Lenten messages, Vietnamese bishops asked Catholics to be in communion with God and COVID-19 victims as a new wave of cases sweeps the country.

Bishop Alphonse Nguyen Huu Long of Vinh said the coronavirus pandemic has pushed countless people to dreadful conditions because of unemployment, lack of food and insufficient incomes. Ucanews.com reported he said that many families have had to sell their bare essentials to survive.

“Christians are called on to offer generous support and words of comfort to people in need,” he said, adding that when people sow goodness and love, they themselves first enjoy their fruits, for “by their fruit you will recognize them.”

The bishop said Lent is an appropriate time for Catholics to control their spiritual lives and strengthen their relationship of communion with God and others through prayer, fasting and charity.

“Through prayer, we become one with God; by fasting, we are given strength to fight and overcome temptation like Jesus; and by doing charitable work with tender hearts, we come out of our selfishness and (are) in communion with one another,” Long said in his letter, published Feb. 28.

Bishop Cosme Hoang Van Dat of Bac Ninh said Catholics enter the third Lent while the pandemic still rages, causing a spike in new infections. Pastoral activities are suspended in many parishes.

Dat said that looking at the main purpose of Lent, the faithful should take this opportunity to renew their faith lives. Those who are infected with the coronavirus should make use of periods of isolation and treatment to go on spiritual retreats and attend online Masses, and other people are invited to pray, support and care for patients.

Ucanews.com reported Bishop Dat noted that people offer basic food and medicine to families with people in quarantine, and Catholics in rural areas help families sick families with daily farm work.

“In the difficult situation, we realize God’s will and make our faith activities come to life like the early church’s faith life,” he said in a Lenten message.

On Feb. 28, the Diocese of Bui Chu said it plans to offer online services on a daily basis during Lent for those who are kept in quarantine centers and at home.

Father Joseph Nguyen Tien Lien, pastor of Mai Yen Parish, said Son La province is recording more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases per day, even though local people have been given two doses of a vaccine.

Lien said dozens of families with infections in his parish are isolated at home. They suffer from lack of food, severe depression and feel abandoned.

“I daily give vegetables, rice, instant noodles, fish sauce, salt, masks and medicine to them and console them,” he said, adding that he puts materials at their gates to stay clear of infection.

He said most recipients are from Hmong, Muong, Thai and Xinh Mun ethnic groups and live in poverty.

The 43-year-old priest, who relies on donations from benefactors, also offers those who were hospitalized 3 million dong each.

“We do our best to save our brothers and sisters — regardless of their background — from the health crisis and help them return to normal life soon,” he said.

The pandemic has been raging across Vietnam since the Tet holidays in February, when people rushed to tourist destinations across the country.

On Feb. 28, the Health Ministry recorded 122,480 cases, the record number of infections in a single day since early February.