Benedict XVI Invited to Pray for Chinese Catholics on May 24

Source: FSSPX News

On May 24, Benedict XVI invited to pray for all Chinese Catholics, and for “harmonious cohabitation” for all the inhabitants of the Middle Empire, after having established this day as the “World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.” On this occasion, a prayer by the pope “for the Church in China” was published on May 16.

In the prayer, Benedict XVI wishes that Chinese faithful may “discern in every situation, even the most obscure, the signs of God’s loving presence.” The pope asks that the Blessed Virgin be a support to believers “in their daily hardships (…) so that they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world.” Lastly, he prayed that Chinese Catholics be “united to the rock that is Peter,” i.e. the Sovereign Pontiff.

The prayer, addressed to Our Lady of Sheshan was published by the Holy See Press Office in two Chinese idioms and in six other languages. Every May 24, thousands of Catholics from all over China traditionally go on pilgrimage to the shrine of Sheshan dedicated to Mary Help of Christians, which is located on a green hill some 30 miles south of Shanghai.

Over 200,00 faithful were expected for May 24, 2008, but Chinese authorities -- and more especially the Patriotic Association which controls religious life -- forbade any gathering on the hill. The dioceses closer to the shrine, (those of Shanghai, Wenzhu, and Ningbo) were commanded not to organize collective visits for the faithful. During the whole month of May, hotels, and youth hostels around the shrine were not allowed to receive Catholic pilgrims. Individual visits were allowed only to those who -- at their own risks -- registered with the diocese of Shanghai and asked for an authorization. For this reason, the diocese of Hong Kong had to give up the organization of a pilgrimage, even though Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop of Hong Kong, had taken the precaution of announcing that he would not go to Sheshan and that pilgrims from Hong Kong would not be more than 500.

On May 12, Cardinal Zen had said he believed “the time had not yet come” for an official visit of the pope to China, where “there is neither religious liberty nor freedom of the press.” In an interview granted to La Stampa, the cardinal said he was concerned by the “danger” of nationalism in China. “For the upcoming olympic games, the government insisted much on Chinese pride. This is justified if kept within the limits of a sound national feeling, but it must not fall into an ideological nationalism,” the cardinal stated. Speaking of the obstacles to a re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Beijing, he declared that “the main difficulty was the lack of true religious liberty in China.” “It is essential for the Church that the pope may choose bishops freely” whereas “the government means to intervene” in this domain. “To establish diplomatic relations presently might mean legitimizing a religious policy which does not grant real liberty to believers,” he emphasized. (Sources: Apic/Imedia/chiesa/asianews/eda/afp)