CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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World Day of Prayer for China

HONG KONG (SE): In Hong Kong the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China was marked with a Mass celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by the bishop of Hong Kong, John Cardinal John Tong Hon, and one at the Holy Spirit Study Centre in Aberdeen on May 24.

People gathered at the two Masses prayed for the leaders in Chinese society, asking that they may be inspired to respect religious belief, social freedom and personal liberty.

They prayed for the Catholic people that despite the things curtailing their freedom they may actively share the values of their faith with others and that the Holy Spirit will call many young men and women to a religious vocation.

Prayers were also offered for the Christian people in Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong, as well as members of the Chinese diaspora spread throughout the world, that they too may be inspired to taste the joy of the gospel at all ends of the earth.

In the run up to the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Pope Francis called on people the world over to join the Catholic people of China in their prayer, especially remembering that the Holy See is currently engaged in a dialogue with the authorities from Beijing over the appointment of bishops on the mainland, an issue that has been the source of great pain and frustration for the people of the Church in the Middle Kingdom.

The pope lamented that the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association still wields great power over the daily life of the Church, leading to the arrests of priests and bishops and forcing others to take part in Masses with priests or bishops that are not in good standing with the Church.

"To Chinese Catholics, I say let us look up to our Mother Mary," Pope Francis said, "so that she may help us discern God’s will about the actual path of the Church in China and support us in welcoming with generosity his project of love."

He continued, "May Mary encourage us to make our personal contribution to communion among believers and to harmony in the whole society. Let us not forget to bear witness to the faith through prayer and love, always open to encounter and dialogue."

On May 22, he told a group of Chinese Catholics, "We look to our Mother Mary to help us discern God’s will regarding the concrete path of the Church in China and may he support us in his generosity of love."

Pope Francis added, "Mary encourages us to offer our personal contribution to communion among believers and to the harmony of the whole of society… let us not forget to bear witness to the faith with prayer and love, keeping us open always to encounter and dialogue."

The day itself, May 24, the feast of Our Lady help of Christians, has been regarded in China as a special day of prayer for many years and the Sheshan Shrine has always been a popular destination for pilgrims.

The shrine, often referred to as Our Lady of China, at the basilica on the outskirts of Shanghai becomes the focus of May for pilgrimage as people begin flocking to it as early as April 29.

April 29 to May 29 is designated as the month of special activity at Sheshan, as groups visiting around the time of the feast are required to register and must be led by a priest.

Every year during the four-week period, the shrine hosts thousands of people from all around China.

Groups came from Handan and Xingtai in Hebei; Wenzhou in Zhejiang, Changzhi and Taiyuan in Shanxi; Tianshui in Gansu; Mindong in Fujian; Tianjin; Guizhou; and Suzhou in Jiangsu, as well as the host diocese of Shanghai, which had its big day on May 10.

AsiaNews reported that hundreds of priests, sisters, seminarians, Church staff and parishioners took part in the pilgrimage.

People gathered to pray at the Three Saints' Pavilion at a ceremony presided over by Father Lu Qinglin, the dean of Punan in Shanghai, in the forced absence of the bishop of the city who is still under house arrest.

Father Lu encouraged the people to pray fervently and entrust their prayer to the Blessed Mother and ask St. Joseph to help the Church in China, especially Shanghai diocese.

Later in the day, a Mass was celebrated at the Basilica, led by Father Wu Jianlin, together with some 40 concelebrants.

After the Mass, Father Wu led the congregation in the Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan, composed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.

As this year marks the centenary of Our Lady of Fatima, a reminder went out to recite the rosary every day.

UCAN reported that at least 16 dioceses held celebrations on the centenary day, May 13, although it is an unpopular event in the eyes of the Communist Party because one of the predictions of Fatima is the end of Communism. 

During the 1950s, a time of religious persecution in China, the Communist Party was angered that the Holy See had called on people to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.

"They regarded her as Our Lady of Anti-Communism and Our Lady of the Counterrevolution," an elderly person from the unofficial Church community recalled.

"The Communists are really afraid of Our Lady of Fatima as she mentioned Communism will be destroyed in one of her secret prophecies," Father Joseph, from the unofficial community, said.

However, official disapproval seems to have faded in recent years.

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