Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Church in China is suffering the strict control of the regime and persecutions, but in each parish, even the smallest, the baptism of dozens of new Christians will be celebrated during the Easter vigil.
In Beijing, the faithful of the official Church are a bit 'confused by the strong control of the Patriotic Association, which has forced Archbishop Joseph Li Shan to participate in the illicit ordination ceremonies of Chengde and the Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives. Both gestures, according to the Holy See are a sign against the communion with the Pope. Just yesterday, during Mass of the Lord's Supper, Benedict XVI recalled that "he Eucharist is the sacrament of unity. It reaches the very mystery of the Trinity and thus creates visible unity..... Hence the words “una cum Papa nostro et cum episcopo nostro” are a requisite part of the Church’s Eucharistic Prayer." These words are not an addendum of sorts, but a necessary expression of what the Eucharist really is. Furthermore, we mention the Pope and the Bishop by name: unity is something utterly concrete, it has names. In this way unity becomes visible; it becomes a sign for the world and a concrete criterion for ourselves.
In Shanghai, the faithful celebrate Easter with more enthusiasm after they received the news from the Vatican of the beginning of the process of beatification of Paul Xu Guangqi, a Mandarin friend of Matteo Ricci, among the first converted by the Jesuits in the seventeenth century and a highly respected character by historians.
The joy for the beatification of Paul Xu Guangqi is also shared by the city's underground Christians, though they have long called on the Vatican to open the beatification process of Cardinal Ignatius Gong Pinmei as well, a champion of faith and fidelity to the pope. The then bishop of Shanghai past 33 years in prison for this very reason and was appointed cardinal "in pectore" by John Paul II (cf. AsiaNews.it, 25/02/2010, Waiting for the beatification of Card Kung Pin-mei ten years after his death).
In Hebei, some Baoding Catholics have confessed to AsiaNews their pain over the division of their community, after Mgr. Francis An Shuxin moved to the official Church of (29/10/2009 In Hebei, underground bishop joins Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association). Yesterday, at the Chrism Mass, only 20 priests - out of 100 - attended the celebration with Msgr. An.
Many underground communities, afraid of being arrested by the police, continue to change the venue in which they will celebrate Easter. In other parts of the country, underground communities are left alone, provided they remain unobtrusive in their celebrations.
Even in these difficulties and divisions, each community has confirmed to AsiaNews that on the night of the Easter Vigil, there will be dozens of baptisms in each parish or group. A parish in the north will see 40 baptisms. An important fact is the age of the newly baptized (mostly adults between 30 and 40 years) and the reasons that led them to become Catholic. "In a society where there is a lot of lies, they are driven to seek the truth and to find answers to important questions of life, that materialism is unable to meet."
Some estimates state there are at least 150 thousand newly baptized each year in China.