Shanghai (AsiaNews) - May 24 is the special day devoted to prayer for the Church in China. It is the feast of Our Lady of Sheshan, "Help of Christians", in Shanghai. And yesterday coincided with the sixth anniversary of the invitation from Pope emeritus Benedict XVI to Christians throughout the world to join in prayer for Chinese Catholics, in the sacred month dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Benedict XVI's Letter to Chinese Catholics, continues to be - even today - a source of inspiration for the faithful in China, urging them to be witnesses of truth, love and hope for China today. So we want to again thank His Holiness for his deep love and blessing given to the Catholic Church in China.
To date a large number of dioceses in China have organized various activities and religious services to celebrate the feast of May 24, among others, Eucharistic adoration, the Rosary, pilgrimages, celebrations of harvest, all directed to the unity of the Church in China and communion with the Universal Church.
Yesterday morning, priests and seminarians of the Sheshan seminary in the diocese of Shanghai, celebrated Mass at the Marian shrine on top of the mountain on which one of the most important places of worship in the country stands. The liturgy was attended by thousands of faithful. They prayed to Our Lady of Sheshan, asking her to intercede for the Church in China. Moreover, in this month of May, all the parishes of the city went on a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Sheshan.
At the same time, several priests, religious, seminarians and faithful of the Diocese of Zhouzhi, in Shanxi Province, took part in Eucharistic adoration in the minor seminary, with special prayers for the solidarity of the church in China and communion with the Universal Church. Each parish organized different religious activities. Likewise, they made a pilgrimage to the mountains of Shanxi where there is a cross dedicated to Our Lady of China.
And again, the Catholics of the diocese of Beijing offered special prayers for the unity of the church in China. Also yesterday, 24 May, many parishes promoted pilgrimages to the Marian grotto Sang Yu Hou, dedicated to "Our Lady of Lourdes," which is located in a small village in a mountainous area. According to tradition, over the centuries the site has been a source of repeated miracles. And that is precisely the place where the community celebrated the victory of faith in difficult times of persecution and, thanks to the fundamental help provided by the Virgin Mary.
In conclusion, May 24 was a day of celebration in which Chinese Catholics have asked Our Lady of China to pray for the Church. So we want to ask everyone, together, for one last prayer for the unity of the church in China, using the same words contained in the letter of the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
"Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians", the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection. We come before you today to implore your protection. Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them, along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.
Sustain all those in China, who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love. May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world and of the world to Jesus.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen"