Thursday, May 29, 2008

World Day of Prayer for the Church in China

The idea for a Day of Prayer to be celebrated each year on May 24 was initiated by Benedict XVI in his Letter to Chinese Catholics last year. On that day, the Chinese Catholics celebrate the liturgical feast of Mary Help of Christians, venerated at the shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.

In the Letter, Benedict XVI asks Chinese Catholics to mark the day "by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible" (no. 19). The Pontiff suggests to the Catholics, who are often persecuted, to "love [your] enemies and to pray for those who persecute [you]."

Meanwhile Cardinal Dias tells Chinese Catholics the Pope blesses them all, and wants to see them united.

Often, under pressure from the regime’s propaganda, Catholics from the official Church are afraid to publicly show their loyalty to the Pope, concerned that they be accused of being anti-patriotic. By contrast underground Catholics tend to be intransigent towards official Catholics. But for the cardinal “in heaven there will be no official or underground Catholics because we shall all be children of God. And for the Pope this unity should also be seen on this earth.”

The prelate referred to the “suffering of the past”, calling on everyone to forgive past wrongs. He also highlighted recent signs of increasing relations between China and the Vatican like the 7 May concert by the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra which was “offered by government authorities to the Holy Father” as well as the Pontiff’s appeal and prayers for the victims and survivors of the Sichuan earthquake.

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