ROME, Italy — Reports said the Catholic Church initiated a day of prayer for the church in China. However, several restrictions were implemented by the Chinese government in the said event. Holy mass celebration was not permitted and there was a limited access to the Our Lady of Sheshan Shrine.
May 24 marks the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, a day specially set aside by Pope Benedict XVI for remembering the plight of Chinese Catholics.
Fr. Pietro Cui, the administering priest of the Pastoral Care of Chinese Catholics in Italy said in a statement, “For us, for our community, I can say the Pope is like a father who loves his children.”
The priest also remarked that, “The Holy Father made a special appeal for the people of China and we must thank him for that because it’s very important, also that the world may know that this day is important for all Catholics.”
Chinese Catholics pay significant attention on the said day since it has been a tradition to pay tribute in Shanghai’s Our Lady of Sheshan Shrine.
“The sanctuary of Our Lady of Sheshan is very important to us. She is our Madonna, the Madonna of China. I’ve heard that pilgrims are not very free to go to Sheshan. I’ve heard of problems today, though.” Those problems also seem to exist in other parts of China too.
Fr. Cui said that in the north of China, Catholics are “not very free to celebrate Mass.” Although he described the restrictions on the Church as “normal” for locals. At present, the Chinese government only allows the state-controlled “Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association” to operate freely within the country. The Association does not acknowledge the authority of the Pope. It’s estimated there are some 6 million such Catholics in China although millions more are worshiping outside the official church.
Hence the call of the Pope for prayer as explained today by his spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J.
“The Pope’s latest appeal to all the faithful for the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, on May 24th, should be understood for what it is meant to be: that is, above all, an appeal for prayer. The Pope believes in the power of prayer and invites us to be ‘confident that, through prayer we can do something very real’ for the Church in China,” Fr. Lombardi said.
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