Pope Francis expresses closeness to Catholics in China, including those who suffer, and calls on the faithful to pray that the Gospel may be proclaimed in its fullness, as the Church marks the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
“I wish to assure my thoughts and closeness to our brothers and sisters in China, and share in their joys and hopes. I offer a special thought to all those who suffer – pastors and the faithful – so that in the communion and solidarity of the universal Church they may experience consolation and encouragement.”
Pope Francis made this appeal for the Church in China on Wednesday as he held his General Audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The Pope recalled that 24 May marks the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.
In his appeal, the Holy Father invited all Christians to “raise their prayers to God, so that the Good News of Christ crucified and risen may be proclaimed in its fullness, beauty and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and all of Chinese society.”
Among the faithful present in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday were several chaplains who serve the Chinese Catholic community in various parts of Italy.
Pope Benedict XVI instituted the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China in 2007, to be held annually on the Feast of Mary Help of Christians, venerated and invoked at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai. The late Pope also composed the following prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan in 2008:
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title “Help of Christians”,
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother’s care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.
When you obediently said “yes” in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God’s eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.
From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God’s loving presence.
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen!