Shanghai (AsiaNews) - Some Catholics in China prayed for the Chinese Church through the intercession of the Chinese Martyr-Saints yesterday, July 9, which marked the feast day to celebrate and remember their testimonies of the Catholic faith.
This feast was not openly celebrated in some places in China, a priest told AsiaNews, because the Chinese government disapproved the 120 Catholic martyrs, who were canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.
Three days ago, July 7, marked the second anniversary of the episcopal ordination of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai. As usual, Bishop Ma issued a prayer on weibo (miniblog) in the early morning.
One faithful responded on the same miniblog, "It's another July 7, while Bishop Ma is taking a 'retreat' at Sheshan. You (the authorities) can restrict Bishop Ma's freedom, but you cannot shake his faith. You can threaten us, but you cannot change our belief. We treat you with benevolence, yet you trample on our conscience and see us as rioters instead. You can demolish our churches, tear down our crosses, but God will rebuild His temple in our hearts forever and ever."
Another Catholic congratulated Bishop Ma for his ordination, "God has chosen you to be our shepherd, our most beloved pastor. May God grant you good heath, happiness and holiness."
Cardinal Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, wrote on his blog on July 6, "Tomorrow is the second anniversary of 'double seven incident' (July 7) of Shanghai diocese." Bishop Thaddeus Ma "recently told the Holy Father not to restrain himself from preaching the truth out of fear that it may cause trouble to him. He is right, only the truth will make us free!"
The 82-year-old cardinal urged the faithful, "even facing all kinds of threats, to come out peacefully to witness the truth, to defend human rights and fight for freedom and democracy."
The editorial in the July 6 issue of the diocesan weeklies of Hong Kong diocese titled "Martyrs of Yesterday and Today" noted the testimonies made by Bishop Thaddeus Ma, those who disagree with the illegitimate consecration of bishops and have left the local Church or are leading a compromised faith life, and those who suffer religious persecutions in China.
"At all times and in all places, martyrs have witnessed to their faith with their lives, while many others suffer to uphold their values and dignity and stand up with dignity. The witness of these living martyrs is equally important," the editorial says.
"Pope Francis himself is a living witness, a symbol of courage in faith and morality - a sign of a new hope," it continues.
The editorial noted that during Pope Francis' visit to the Korean martyrs' shrine in South Korea in August, he will beatify 124 Korean martyrs, as a reminder of "the true meaning of Christian belief in the context of the death and resurrection of Christ."
The Church in Asia will also hold the Asian Youth Day in Daejeon under the theme "Asian Youth! Wake up! The Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You!"
The event will encourage all Catholic youth, including in China, "to reflect on the values of faith and, as followers of Christ, and to bear witness to the Lord".
A Catholic in China told the "patriotic clergy" to rectify their mistakes made in 2000 because they followed the Chinese authorities' instructions to condemn the Vatican's canonization. Now they should seek forgiveness from the Pope, apologize to the faithful and repent before God.