BEIJING (SE): Wednesday, March 1, marked the beginning of Lent, but because so few people are able to attend Mass on a weekday in China, many parishes also held the rite of placing ashes on the forehead on the following Sunday as well.
Fides reported that there were a wide variety of initiatives taken up in different parishes to mark the beginning of the penitential season.
Immaculate Conception and Christ the King parishes in Suzhou took the message of Pope Francis as a reference point for their Lenten reflection. One priest told Fides, “The pope has invited us to a conversion, which begins from our heart and manifests itself by reaching out towards the needy, the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the abandoned.”
In saying this is not an impossible task, he added, “He does not ask us to go far, but asks us to recognise the other and our neighbour. A converted heart makes us return to our faith.”
In some parishes, priests used the opportunity to offer the sacrament of the sick to the ailing souls present in their congregations as well.
On a diocesan level, Suzhou organised a three-day retreat for some of its priests to reflect on the themes of My relationship with God, My relationship with Catholics and My relationship with non-Christians.
The parish of the Sacred Heart of Zhengzhou, Henan province, began the journey of Lent as the beginning point for the Year of Spirituality, which is being organised by the diocese.
Several groups shared their experience of living the faith and trying to introduce it to others under the theme Open your hearts to the Church.
Beijing, together with some other dioceses around Hebei, launched an initiative to collect money and other items to support the poor and began putting together a Concert of Mercy which will be staged in May.