CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Shanghai marks Day of Prayer for China in low key style

HONG KONG (SE): The traditional May 24 celebration of the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, which has been adopted as a national feast day for the Church in China under the name of Our Lady of China, took place in muted circumstances at the Sheshan Shrine on the outskirts of Shanghai with the usual procession and Mass.

Although taking place for the first time in many years in a diocese with no bishop, around 2,500 people gathered at the shrine on top of the mountain to celebrate the feast.

The recent death of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian was mourned at the Mass and people also noted the absence of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who is still confined at an unknown location and not allowed to take any part in the public affairs of the diocese.

The absence of the two bishops left the atmosphere at the usually festive occasion somewhat muted.

Although some reports are hopeful that Bishop Ma will eventually take his rightful place in Shanghai as the bishop of the diocese, he is still excluded from all Church life and the seminary on the grounds of the Sheshan Shrine is still closed by order of the government.

UCA News quoted one elderly person as saying, “We feel helpless, as the government has paved the way for our Church. We can do nothing but pray in silence.”

However, AsiaNews reported that Bishop Ma was able to upload a post on his Weibo microblog on May 23.

He cited Ecclesiastes 1:11-13 as saying, “The fear of the Lord is glory and exultation, and gladness and a crown of rejoicing. The fear of the Lord delights the heart, and gives gladness and joy and long life. With him who fears the Lord it will go well at the end; on the day of his death he will be blessed.” 

The bishop then wrote, “Lord, we are originally created by you, and there is no place we can boast. But you promised, those who fear you will be blessed. Lord, tonight we praise and pray to you. May the earth be filled with fear of you.”

Although no reports of interference by police were received this year from the Shanghai shrine, it was a different story in other parts of China.

In the village of Donglu, the feast of Our Lady has translated into an annual push and shove between the local Catholic people and the police. 

This year was no exception, as police linked arms in an attempt to prevent the 90 per cent Catholic population among the 10,000 residents of the village from taking part in the procession.

Our Lady is believed to have appeared during the Boxer Rebellion in the village when it was under threat in 1900, but the police only became interested in the procession when in 1995 some 30,000 people descended on the area to join in the annual procession, Vatican Insider reported.

In 1924, the first conference of bishops met in Shanghai and adopted the image of the reported apparition as Our Lady of China, or Our Lady Queen of China, and a painting depicting the mother of God bearing the child Jesus was commissioned and hung in the local church. 

The annual procession dates back to that year.

As usual, there were no serious incidents this year, but the police seem to use this occasion to flex their muscle a bit and remind the local Catholics that they are not entirely free to do as they wish.

They are not usually bothered during the remainder of the year.

AsiaNews reported that the diocese of Zhouzhi in Shanxi province, held Eucharistic adoration at the minor seminary where special prayers for the solidarity of the Church in China and communion with the universal Church were offered.

They made a pilgrimage into the mountains of Shanxi where a cross is dedicated to Our Lady of China.

In Beijing, special prayers were offered for the unity of the Church in China, while many parishes promoted pilgrimages to the Marian grotto, Sang Yu Hou, dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, which is located in a small village in the mountains. 

According to tradition, the site has been a source of repeated miracles over the centuries. 

Father Joseph, a priest from the unofficial community in Henan, told AsiaNews that he decided to bring a dozen people to visit sick peasants in the mountainous areas.

“We can celebrate the Day of Prayer for China with concrete action, which will give witness to our faith. Jesus has never left China,” he said.

The Vatican Insider reported that Pope Francis was joined by Hong Kong-born Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, the secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, as well as Archbishop Claudio Celli, who sat the China desk for a few years, and several Chinese priests, seminarians and sisters at his morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae to mark the day of prayer for China.

In inviting people worldwide to pray with and for Catholics in China during his Mass, Pope Francis made a special request for two particular graces, endurance and patience, saying that these allow people to overcome adversity with love.

The pope noted, “To suffer with patience is not easy. It is not easy, whether the difficulties come from without, or are problems of the heart, the soul, internal problems, but to suffer is to take up the difficulty and to carry it with strength so that the difficulty does not drag us down.”

He continued, “To carry it with strength is a Christian virtue, but it is not easy as discouragement comes and (we feel) the urge to give up.”

He concluded by saying, “It is a grace to suffer and in difficulties, we must ask for grace. The grace we ask for today is the grace of victory through love, by means of love. This isn’t easy when we have enemies outside who make us suffer a lot; it is not easy to win with love.” 

The pope added that revenge is a natural temptation, but said that Christians must follow the example of Jesus, where we find the real victory. 

Pope Francis reflected, “The proof that we are acting in love is when we pray for our enemies.” 

 

The World Day of Prayer for the Church in China was declared in 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis prayed “for the noble Chinese people, may the Lord bless them and the Blessed Mother keep them.”

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