— Rome — Pope Francis appealed for prayers for Christians in China on Sunday, the Solemnity of Pentecost and the eve of the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians.
The pope’s appeal came after a week that saw reports of renewed harassment of Catholics in China, including a report of the arrest of the bishop of Xinxiang, Joseph Zhang Weizhu, along with seven of his priests and several seminarians. The Catholic Herald asked the Press Office of the Holy See for confirmation of the report and sought comment on the situation on Friday, but received no answer.
“[Monday], the Catholic faithful in China celebrate the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, the celestial patron of their great country,” Pope Francis told the faithful following the Regina coeli prayer on Pentecost Sunday.
“The Mother of the Lord and of the Church is venerated with particular devotion in the Shrine of Sheshan,” Pope Francis said, “and is assiduously invoked by Christian families in the trials and hopes of daily life.”
Sheshan is located some 25 miles or 40 kilometres southwest of Shanghai.
“How good and how necessary it is for the members of a Christian family and community to be ever more united in love and faith,” Pope Francis went on to say. “In this way parents and children, grandparents and children, pastors and faithful can follow the example of the first disciples who, on the Solemnity of Pentecost, were united in prayer with Mary as they waited for the Holy Spirit.”
It was in 2007 that Pope Benedict XVI first invited the faithful throughout the world to mark the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians as a day of prayer for the Church in China.
More recently, Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, Myanmar, has called for a week of prayer, from May 23 to May 30. “We should ask Our Lady of Sheshan to protect all humanity and therefore the dignity of each and every person in China,” Cardinal bo said in a statement earlier this year. “We should pray not only for the Church,” he said, “but for all persons in the People’s Republic of China.” Cardinal Bo is the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.
Chinese Catholics continue to face significant adversity, despite an agreement between the Holy See and the Chinese government. First reached in 2018 and renewed last year, the provisional agreement is believed to regard the process for appointing bishops in China.
On Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis said: “I invite you, therefore, to accompany with fervent prayer the Christian faithful in China, our dear brothers and sisters, whom I hold in the depths of my heart.”
“May the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis continued, “the protagonist of the Church’s mission in the world, guide and help them to be bearers of the good news, witnesses of goodness and charity, and builders of justice and peace in their homeland.”
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