TAIYUAN, China (UCAN News)-- The Christmas period has proved an opportune time for the Catholic Church in mainland China to evangelize, and 2008 was no exception.
Taiyuan is the capital of Shanxi province. Shanxi is the 11th largest administrative division of China in terms of area (205,800km2) and the 17th largest with respect to population (37,050,000)
In Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, tens of thousands who do not belong to the Church flocked this past Christmas to Immaculate Conception Cathedral to soak in the festive atmosphere and received free literature on Christianity.
This year, the cathedral administration prepared 10 different pamphlets, and printed a total of 300,000 copies, on aspects of the Catholic faith. These included the origin of Christmas and why people celebrate it.
Dozens of parishioners, nuns, and seminarians from the nearby Montecorvino Major Seminary distributed these pamphlets and explained the faith to visitors from the afternoon of Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, until dawn on Christmas Day.
The helpers also gave away 10,000 Catholic books and periodicals, as well as bookmarks depicting Christmas themes and the cathedral, to the continuous stream of people entering and leaving the building.
Meanwhile, a group of young Catholic volunteers ensured that the visitors who toured the cathedral did so in an orderly fashion, and that Catholics were able to pray and attend Mass undisturbed.
A seminarian shared with UCAN News that some visitors told him they knew that Christmas is “Jesus’ birthday,” but otherwise had little knowledge about the Church.
Bishop Silvester Li Jiantang of Taiyuan, 83, presided at the midnight Christmas Vigil Mass, after which Catholics and non-Catholics alike took part in games and enjoyed various performances in the cathedral courtyard until 5 a.m., even though Christmas Day is not a public holiday in China.
Taiyuan is already known to our readers. Claretians go there regularly to teach at the Formation Center. In 2004, the city had a population of 3.4 million.