05/21/2008, 00.00
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More than 500 Chinese Catholics in Rome to pray for China with the Pope

Italy’s Chinese communities are to meet in Saint Mary Major Basilica on 24 May to celebrate World Day of Prayer for the Church in China instituted by Benedict XVI. Card Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, will preside at Mass.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Moved by the need to pray for the Chinese Church, the victims of the Sichuan earthquake and the unity between Chinese Catholics with the Pope, Italy’s Chinese Catholic communities will take part in a solemn mass that will be celebrated in Rome’s Saint Mary Major Basilica on 24 May on the occasion of World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, an event promoted by the Migrantes Bureau of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Italy which attends to the needs of migrants.

Benedict XVI announced his decision to set aside 24 May as a day of prayer every year in his Letter to Chinese Catholics released in June of last year.

All the faithful of China will celebrate the liturgical memorial of Mary, Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Sheshan shrine near Shanghai.

The Mass in Rome will be presided by Card Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, and co-celebrated by Chinese and Italian priests.

According to Fr Pietro Cui, this prayer meeting “has two main goals. The first one is to pray for China and the Chinese Church; the second is to mould into a more close-knit group Chinese Catholic immigrants in Italy who can thus get to know each better and feel more united.”

In order to foster this union “more than 500 people representing Chinese communities from across the country will be present at the celebration and take part in various events: Mass at 11.30 am, lunch at the Collegio Urbano and the Angelus recited in St Peter’s Square on 25 May.”

The Vatican Publishing House has released a booklet for the occasion reprinting in Italian and Chinese a prayer written By Benedict XVI.

In the afternoon of 24 May, each community will introduce itself to the others. “This is a way to hear the voice of our Catholic brothers from Florence, Prato, Naples, Treviso and all of Italy,” said Father Cui. “Introducing oneself helps our priestly mission—we get to know our flock and unify our pastoral commitment.”

Some 50 Catholics led by Fr Giuseppe Zhao are coming from Prato. “This will be an educational pilgrimage that will enable us to show our unity with the Pope and the Chinese Church,’ Father Zhao said. “It will also help unify Chinese Catholics in Italy through shared experiences and prayers.”

Back in Prato, “we shall share a moment together with our Italian brothers and pray for the victims and survivors of the terrible earthquake that struck Sichuan,” he added. “The victims will be remembered during the celebrations in Rome as well, but I think that it is important for each community to think of them in the places where they live.”

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