ROME — The Catholic Church celebrates Monday the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, that China “may become a force for good and a protector of the rights of the most vulnerable.”
The commemorative feast marks the Chinese celebration of Our Lady of Sheshan, the patroness of China, and was instituted by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007.
On that day, Catholics of the whole world “demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you,” Benedict said, “asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.”
In his weekly Regina Caeli prayer on Sunday, Pope Francis also recalled the feast, noting how the Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, is “venerated with particular devotion in the Sheshan Shrine in Shanghai” and is “invoked assiduously by Christian families, in the trials and hopes of daily life.”
“I invite you to accompany with fervid prayer the Christian faithful in China, our dearest brothers and sisters, whom I hold in the depth of my heart,” Francis told the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.
“May the Holy Spirit, protagonist of the Church’s mission in the world, guide them and help them to be bearers of the happy message, witnesses of goodness and charity, and builders of justice and peace in their country,” he said.
For his part, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of neighboring Myanmar (Burma) has invited Christians around the world to unite in praying for the Chinese people during the entire week of May 23-30.
“Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the peoples of China have faced increasing challenges, which impact us all,” said Cardinal Bo, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences. “It is right that we should pray not only for the Church but for all persons in the People’s Republic of China.”
Cardinal Bo has made a point of distinguishing between the Chinese people and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which he has called “despotic” and “impossible.”
In April, 2020, Bo wrote a forceful letter asserting that the CCP has “primary responsibility” for the global coronavirus pandemic and owes the world “compensation for the destruction it has caused.”
There is “one government that has primary responsibility for what it has done and what it has failed to do, and that is the CCP regime in Beijing,” Bo wrote.
In his prayer campaign, the cardinal has reasserted his love and appreciation for the people of China.
“In proposing this Week of Prayer, I am expressing my love for the peoples of China, my respect for their ancient civilization and extraordinary economic growth, and my hopes that as it continues to rise as a global power, it may become a force for good and a protector of the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized in the world,” he declared.