HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (CNS) — Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Ho Chi Minh City has encouraged people in his archdiocese, a COVID-19 epicenter, to cling to hope and support one another.

He said local people have been in lockdown for three months to contain the delta variant outbreak but remain at grave risk of infection, reported ucanews.com.

“Difficulties and challenges now are no longer just food and medical and financial supplies, but psychological and spiritual suffering because our loved ones are infected or have passed away hastily without immediate cremation. They will return in urns of their ashes,” he said.

The Center for Disease Control in Ho Chi Minh City reports an average of 241 deaths daily. Archbishop Nang noted priests and religious have died of COVID-19, while many others have recovered.

Binh An Parish recorded 70 deaths during July and August, and many other parishes have 10-20 deaths. Many families have two or three dead relatives, while some families have no one left, ucanews.com reported.

“How can our hearts not ache when we witness these distressing scenes and see children left alone because their families died from COVID-19?” Archbishop Nang asked. Ucanews.com reported he pledged priests and parishes will care for and bring up those who are orphaned by COVID-19.

Noting that if one member suffers, all members suffer, the archbishop said the local church is in communion with people bearing emotional and physical pain.

“We grieve and cry just as Jesus himself did when he stood before the coffin of the son of the widow of Nain and the tomb of Lazarus,” he said.

The archbishop urged people to send out this message: Do not lose hope. He quoted St. Paul: “Praise be to the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

Archbishop Nang said he and local priests celebrate daily Masses with special prayers for those who have died of COVID-19, and he said Catholic families should recite prayers for the dead.

The archbishop also asked local Catholics to do everything possible to make the message of hope come true by prayers, visits, consolation, encouragement, sympathy and aid. No one is disappointed by their indifference and ignorance.

“Our hope is anchored firmly and securely in the mystery of the cross and resurrection of Christ, and we are guaranteed to never be disappointed when we walk in the dark,” he said in his letter, posted Sept. 1.

Sister Mary Tran Ngoc Thao Linh, a member of Tan Viet Lovers of the Holy Cross died of COVID-19 Aug. 24. She was 32, ucanews.com reported.

In a letter to other nuns before her death, Sister Linh said the virus was the cross God offered her so that she wholeheartedly lived out her vocation of loving the cross. All people have their crosses to help them follow God and become holy.

“Thinking about life and death, I see that it is just the name of two different life forms. In fact, we never die, so I do not beg God to let me get well or live a long life,” she said.

If walking on a journey, what the traveler wants most is to be able to reach the destination as soon as possible, the nun said.

“If death comes early, it’s probably a good thing. Although death is not our destination, it is a sign that we are very close to it,” she said.

On Sept. 2, the Center for Disease Control in Ho Chi Minh City reported that more than 91,000 COVID-19 patients were being given medical treatment in their homes, 21,000 others were in quarantine centers and more than 40,000 were hospitalized.

Some 6.2 million people in the commercial hub of 9 million have been vaccinated but only 350,384 are fully inoculated.

The city plans to provide humanitarian aid to 4.5 million people affected by the outbreak in the coming months.