04/18/2017, 16.18
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Baptisms in official and underground communities: pastoral outreach increasingly difficult

by Fr Peter

Many catechumens were baptised on Easter eve in many dioceses, but baptisms can take place on other dates. Data for underground communities are hard to collect. Five thousand priests are not enough for pastoral care in China.  Believers must deepen their faith to counter the current mind-set full of superstitions and idolatry or money.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – China’s Catholic communities face various barriers according to their location.

Official parishes struck a certain compromise with local authorities, and try to entertain good relations with them in order to avoid something unpleasant from happening.

Underground communities must conduct their services behind closed doors in many dioceses. This forces priests to divide the faithful into smaller groups and go to different places to celebrate Mass.

Easter is considered the most important feast of the year and entails many activities. The main one is the baptism of catechumens. Although many undergo the ceremony on Easter Eve, others do it on Easter Sunday.

In some dioceses, the catechumens are not baptised on Easter. In the diocese of Tianjin for example, baptisms are not celebrated on Easter eve because, as a result of the rapid development of local communities, there are so many catechumens that they can pick the date.

In recent years, Hebei Jinde has tried to keep the statistics of the tens of thousands of catechumens and baptisms. However, these data do not provide a clear picture of the Church in China since it impossible to have updated information about underground believers.

The main issue is the shortage of pastors. Although China has an estimated 5,000 official and underground priests, they are not enough to meet the spiritual needs of 12 million believers.

In Hebei and Shanxi, a considerable number of priests take good care of the faithful. But in other provinces there are not enough priests so that those who serve have to celebrate Mass and the sacrament of reconciliation in many places.

Since the faithful are eager to respect the Easter precept – confessing once year for Easter communion – priests are busy with the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least until Easter octave.

Because of the shortage of priests, catechists and community leaders have an important role to play in the diocese. Together with the former, priests lead the faithful at Easter towards the renewal of their baptism and encourage them to deepen their faith to counter the current mind-set full of superstition and idolatry of money.

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