TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Pope Francis called on Catholics throughout the world to pray for the church in China at the Regina Coeli on Sunday (May 23), per Vatican News.
Monday is the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, the national patron saint for the Chinese faithful. In 2007, Benedict XVI announced that May 24 would be the World Day of Prayer for the church in China.
Since then, Catholics from China and around the world have made pilgrimages to the sanctuary of Sheshan.
Lately, however, the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan has been ordered closed during the pandemic, while a large amusement park and a golf club nearby are open as usual. Meanwhile, hundreds of police officers were sent to arrest bishops and tear down church crosses in Hebei Province last week.
Yesterday, after Sunday Mass, Pope Francis mobilized the global faithful to pray for the church in China. He said that Our Lady of Sheshan “is assiduously invoked by Christian families in the trials and hopes of daily life.”
The pope also called on global Catholics to pray for their “dearest brothers and sisters, whom I hold in the depth of my heart” in China. He asked the faithful to "help them to be bearers of the happy message, witnesses of goodness and charity, and builders of justice and peace in their country.”
The pope’s appeal came on the heels of prayer campaigns by senior clerics against the persecution of Chinese Catholics.
Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, who had previously denounced China for covering up the pandemic, launched the most recent prayer campaign. His call drew a worldwide response, and Global Prayer for China was established in May, according to CNA.
Last year, the Holy See and China renewed their provisional agreement signed in 2018 on the appointment of bishops. The document caused the Chinese authorities to acknowledge for the first time that the pope was the head of the church in China and had the final say in the appointment of Chinese bishops.