Gansu Catholics remember Zhouqu victims on Assumption Day
by Annie Lam
A national day of mourning is held to remember the victims of the 7 August mudslides. In churches, prayers and silence resound. In many places, the fireworks and performances in celebration of Marian festival were cancelled. Lanzhou bishop speaks on the matter.
Lanzhou (AsiaNews) – Catholics in Gansu province joined others nationwide to observe a day of national mourning on 15 August for those who died in Zhouqu (Gansu), where a torrent of mud and floodwaters engulfed three villages on 7 August. The day also marked the Assumption of Mary, one of the four major Catholic festivities in China. Crowds of Catholics gathered in churches to celebrate the religious event and pray for the victims.

National flags flew at half-mast and many public events were cancelled as a show of respect. Representatives from government, medical teams, army and all sectors, each with a white flower, gathered in Zhouqu and Lanzhou squares to observe a three-minute moment of silence to mourn the dead. Many were moved to tears.

Zhouqu’s death toll currently stands at 1,248 with 496 people still missing. Zhouqu County government announced plans to erect a monument with the inscribed names of all those who died from the mudslides.

Bishop Han Zhihai of Lanzhou (Gansu) told AsiaNews that in churches Catholics also observed a three-minute moment of silence at 10 am, to remember the people in Zhouqu and elsewhere who suffered or were victims of the rains and floods.

Zhouqu, located between Lanzhou and Tianshui dioceses, is inhabited by some Tibetans but has no Catholics or churches, Bishop Han said. However, in areas in Longnan, which is near Zhouqu, there are some Catholic peasant families who were by heavy rains, he added.

On Assumption Day, Bishop Han said he blessed a new church in Jiayuguan, which can accommodate 200 faithful.

Diocesan administrator Father Zhao Jianzhang of Tianshui told AsiaNews that local Catholics prayed for the victims in Zhouqu, that they might overcome their hardships as soon as possible. He also noted that they prayed for peace in the country as well.

In his homily during the 15 August Mass, he reminded all the faithful to pray and donate for the needy.

Tianshui has about 20,000 Catholics, who are served by 13 priests.

In other parts of China, some parishes have cancelled fireworks and performances in celebration of Marian festival out of respect for the national mourning.

Prayers and encouraging words for Zhouqu victims were posted on Catholic websites and in chat groups. As a sign of mourning for Zhouqu victims, some sites even switched to a black-and-white display.