Shanghai (AsiaNews) - Today, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, Chinese Catholics have prayed for the Church in China, according to invocation contained in Benedict XVI’s 2007 letter, to celebrate a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China on May 24, the feast day of Our Lady of Sheshan (Shanghai).
This morning, in Sheshan, Bishop Joseph Xing Wenzhi, auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, led a procession from the church that lies half way up the hill, to the summit, where he celebrated mass. Bishop Xing was joined by 3 000 other Catholics to pray for all priests and Catholics in China, as well as for victims of disasters and for the Expo, which is currently being held in the great metropolis.
Fr. Li Fangyuan, rector of the Basilica of Sheshan today confirmed to AsiaNews that he celebrated a mass at 6.30 this morning with prayer for China, hoping to soon see a "way out" for inter-Church relations.
In Xiamen (Fujian), the newly appointed Bishop Cai Bingrui said that all his priests prayed for the Church in China during mass. "I'm optimistic - he says - for the Church in China, because it is blessed "by the Pope’s decision to appoint a special day to pray with this intent". “Besides - he continues – I am deeply devoted to Our Lady of Sheshan. I studied in the Theological Seminary of Sheshan and as seminarians we often went to pray in the basilica, helping the pilgrims during the months of pilgrimage”.
In central China, Teresa, a lay Catholic, told AsiaNews that she continues to pray that the bishops of China - many of whom are young and new - can be strong.
In the north west of the country, Fr. Joseph, an underground priest, said this morning that priests prayed with other Catholics of the underground Church, in some cases is followed by the adoration and benediction with the Blessed Sacrament. Some have tried to go on pilgrimage to Sheshan, despite the large number of security controls and traffic blocks.
On a personal level, Fr. Joseph prayed for unity among the divided Christian communities in China and a normalization of relations between China and the Vatican as soon as possible, as well as the growth of priestly vocations in number and quality.
Fr. Peter of Zhengding (Hebei), another underground priest prayed for the unity of the Church and for the evangelization of China, but also for the return of his bishop, Mgr. Julius Jia Zhiguo, who disappeared months ago into police custody.
"For me – he confides - the Day of Prayer for the Church in China, ordered by the Holy Father, is a way to give us spiritual support”. A seminarian, John, from Hebei adds that the most urgent intention now is for stronger unity of the Church and "greater understanding, not division, between the communities."
Bishop Han Zhihai of Lanzhou (Gansu), has great faith in the Mother who helps and protects the Church in China. He prayed that the Church in China may "have more freedom, more vocations to the priesthood and that soon there will be an improvement in relations between China and the Vatican."Just yesterday Pentecost Sunday, Bp. Han administered Confirmation to 130 children and adults. Another 400 Catholics in other parishes expect to receive the sacrament in coming days.