Pope Benedict XVI is calling on the faithful to pray for China.
Speaking at today’s General Audience, the Holy Father says because of restrictions and pressures on the Church by China’s communist government “Christ is living his passion” there.
He says that Chinese Catholics want unity with the universal Church, and with the Successor of Peter.
With prayer, the Holy Father says, the Universal Church can help Catholics in China “find the path to keep their faith alive, to keep their hope strong, to keep their love for all people ardent,” and avoid "the temptation to follow a path independent of Peter.”
The Pontiff expressed his spiritual closeness to his brother bishops and faithful who face difficulties because of the practice of the faith.
The Pope has asked the faithful to pray especially for Chinese Catholics next Tuesday, May 24th. That’s the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, a day that the Holy Father set aside in 2007 as a day of prayer for the Catholic Church in China. It has special significance to the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghia. Pope Benedict wrote the following prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan:
PRAYER OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO OUR LADY OF SHESHAN
ON THE OCCASION OF THE WORLD DAY OF PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH IN CHINA
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!
CNS/UCAN: A 2009 photo of Catholics carrying a statue of Mary as they process to the Sheshan Marian shrine in Shanghai, China.