01/01/2004, 00.00
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For the new year, Catholics beg for God's help against Sars

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Catholics throughout the country celebrated the ringing in the new year with solemn eucharistic celebrations. From yesterday morning until today, various parishes in Beijing celebrated masses of thanksgiving together with thousands of faithful.  

The year 2003 for China was that of the Sars virus and new leadership. Many prayers during celebrations begged for God's help in overcoming the danger of Sars still looming over the country. 

However, there were also prayers said for Iran's earthquake victims, for Iranians and Afghanis, for the political tensions felt throughout the world and global terrorism. In light of the pope's words in his World Day of Peace Message, faithful asked for the Virgin Mary's motherly intercession for globalization based on love and morality. Just recently two disastrous instances of  "bad globalization" struck China: the gas explosion in Chongqing and a fireworks factory blowing up in Liaoning. Both disasters, due to negligence and superficiality, provoked hundreds of deaths.

AsiaNews sources in Chongqing were able to contact the bishop of Wanzhou (city nearest to Chongqing), Msgr. Xu Zhixuan. Msgr. Xu assured that the gas leak and explosion resulted in no damage to churches and faithful. "But the Church shares in the sorrow of the afflicted families and expresses its full solidarity and prayers for all victims."       

Among the various celebrations, there was one that had special significance. Yesterday, Dec. 31, at 6:00 p.m. the patriotic bishop of Beijing and vice president of the Chinese Peoples Assembly, Msgr. Michael Fu Tieshan, presided over a mass of thanksgiving. In attendance were vice prime minister, Mrs. Wu Yi, and other national government representatives. Msgr. Fu, recently re-elected president of Beijing's Patriotic Association, proclaimed that over the next 5 years the association's thematic goal will be "to love the nation" and "to love the Church" ("ai guo; ai jiao").

During the celebration in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Msgr. Fu prayed for the government's representatives who, however, left the church after the service began.
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