Official and underground bishops call on the faithful to pray and fast for the good of China. Homes have become places of unregistered religious activities. Children join in prayers. In north-eastern China, religion-inspired greetings are banned. Under house arrest since 2012, Mgr Ma Daqin posts a message online.
Shanghai (AsiaNews) – Chinese Catholics celebrated Sunday yesterday by praying at home, sitting on a sofa or kang (the bed-stove), kneeling on a modest carpet or the plain floor, in front of a table set up like an altar.
Since the coronavirus outbreak, a few days before the Lunar New Year, the bishops of many Chinese dioceses have issued instructions cancelling Masses, gatherings and other celebrations to prevent the spread of the virus.
To celebrate the Lord's day, the Church has suggested people gather in small numbers to pray and meditate on God’s Word.
Many of the faithful laid down an open bible on tables set up as altars to read some passages as well as recite the rosary, the litanies, and the intercessions.
Everyone, in both the official and underground Churches, prayed intensely to the Lord to spare China from its current trial.
Bishop Joseph Li Shan of Beijing asked members of his congregation to read the Bible, recite the rosary, pray, and make sacrifices and do good deeds.
Mgr Peter Shao Zhumin, the unofficial bishop of Wenzhou (Zhejiang), called on his Catholics to do the same thing: recite the rosary, pray for Divine Mercy, say a prayer to Saint Roch, protector of the plague victims, choose one day a week to fast, and ask God for the grace of healing China.
Circumstances have placed members of the official and underground Churches in the same position: unable to attend church Mass, they have had to turn their homes into unregistered places of religious activity, which violates new religious regulations. And, breaking with the instructions of the United Front, young people under the age of 18 have been able to take part in holy services.
"Usually on Sundays, police and members of the Patriotic Association stand in front of the church to chase away children and youth. But now the government has asked everyone not to go out to reduce the spread of the virus so that children are at home with an altar in a room.”
Some think that perhaps the coronavirus outbreak will make the authorities loosen their strict rules on religion. But this won’t happen everywhere.
In a village in north-eastern China, officials from the Religious Affairs Office went door to door to check that Catholics did not pin any New Year's greetings at their doors with references to God or Jesus. The latter were asked instead to “write something to celebrate the Party or the nation.”
Wrapped up in their ideology, many Party members fail to realise that it is important to value everyone's contribution in facing this emergency.
Recently, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai, who has been under house arrest since 2012, posted a message on his blog.
"Every day I read about the rising number of new cases, as well as the sweat and tears of front-line health workers.
“Every day I read about the implementation of protective measures by local governments, as well as people who always know how to better protect themselves and help each other.
“Every day I read about help from friends abroad, as well as the touching help going to the city of Wuhan from all parts of China.
“Despite its difficulties, in China we remain united to face this situation together, and we shall be ever closer to the light. Let us continue to pray intensely. God bless China! Go China go!”