05/24/2008, 00.00
CHINA – VATICAN
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Even in persecution we pray to Our Lady of Sheshan

by Wang Zhicheng
A Chinese Catholic from the underground Church sends AsiaNews a message for World Day of Prayer for the Church in China in which he highlights how the faithful pray in communion with the Pope despite hardships and repression, hopeful that he might soon bear witness to a true unity of the Church with the Pontiff.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Today, 24 May, is the World Day of Prayer for the Chinese Catholic Church. For this day Pope Benedict XVI personally wrote a prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan as a thanksgiving to God and the Virgin Mary. We wish to give our thanks to the Pope and pray for our great country, China.

We have prayed the Pope’s words to Our Lady of Sheshan for a long time. With our lips and our heart we have joined together to become one person in the Lord as we entrusted our compatriots to the heavenly Mother.

We offer this gift to all our friends in the faith, that this prayer may live in us and reach heaven so that the Lord may offer the great gift of conversion to the Chinese people

We pray that China may soon enjoy full religious freedom and that one day we may be able to show full and visible communion with the Holy Father and bear witness to love for the entire world.

Between the end of April and the beginning of May this year Catholics from across the entire country prepared themselves to fulfill to the Pope’s call for a pilgrimage to Sheshan. However, the government, the Religious Affairs Bureau and the Patriotic Association joined forces to stop it. We were thus unable to fulfill our wish to go on pilgrimage in the month of May, the month dedicated to Mary.

We cannot understand why. How can a peaceful pilgrimage put so much fear in government officials that they face it as if it were a great enemy?

Even the Pope’s Letter to the Catholic Church in China, so brotherly and sweet, remains a taboo for the government, which has tried to stop its distribution and discussion. This is why on 6 May it blocked a Catholic website, the Catholic Faith Club, which was set up six years ago and which now has 9,000 members.

Mgr Fan Zhongliang, bishop of Shanghai, and his underground priests were placed under house arrest and prevented from performing their ministry. Underground priests are not allowed to celebrate Mass.

A dark cloud hangs over the diocese of Baoding. Catholic meeting places have been closed and the police have surrounded the Donglu shrine in Baoding in order to arrest priests. Had it not been for the faithful who turned against police to protect them, the priests would have been arrested.

“On 23 May policemen besieged the church. Now they are even following our parish priest when he has to go to the bathroom,” parishioners in Qicun, Fuping County (diocese of Sanyuan) said.

Today only some faithful from Shanghai with special permit will be able to travel to Sheshan. Most of the faithful in fact were not been able to get it, even more so if they were from the underground Church for whom it was impossible.

The Pope is very much interested in this shrine but it is this interest that is cause of anxiety for the government. The shrine is a standard by which the freedom of the Catholic Church in China can be measured. Many past pilgrimages are no longer taking place. Today only controls and interference are the order of the day.

Holy Mary, Our Mother; protect the Holy Church in China; pray for us so that the Chinese Church may reach full communion in itself and with the Universal Church under the sign of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of the Holy Father with no fear for sacrifice so that with courage it may bear witness to the Lord. Make more people learn about the Lord, make them convert them to Him so that all Christians, together, may be willing to work for evangelisation, waiting for the glorious arrival of the Lord, which is the only path towards salvation.

Our Lady of Sheshan, Mary, Help of Christians, pray for us!

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