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ICC NOTE: We must remember the millions of Christian faithful living in China who continue to face persecution at the hands of the government. In this moment, as many have done so in both Rome, China, and other places around the world, please pray for our brothers and sisters in China. Pray that they receive hope and assurance that their suffering will not go unnoticed nor will it be in vein. God’s presence is growing among the Chinese people as statistics project by 2030, China will have the largest Christian population in the world. This also reminds us to pray for our own countries as more and more become bitter and lose sight of the love Christ has shown to all of us. 

5/26/2016 China (Asia News) – On May 24, several thousand faithful from Shanghai and the province took part in the pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan, on the day when the whole Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. The idea of ​​the Day of Prayer was launched by Benedict XVI in his 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics to strengthen their unity, along with the successor of Peter; to love and pray for persecutors; to receive from the Churches around the entire world “fraternal solidarity and solicitude”, along with “perseverance” in their witness.

From 2008 onwards, out of a fear of seeing too many people gathered together by the same faith, the government has banned all Chinese dioceses, with the exception of Shanghai, to make the pilgrimage on May 24, the feast day of Mary, venerated as “Help of Christians”.

Last year I was in Sheshan on the very day of the feast, and I was deeply moved to see the thousands of faithful climb on their knees (similar to the Holy Steps) the steps that lead to the sanctuary, to take part in Mass in an overflowing Church, without any space to move around, in an atmosphere of worship and joyful fraternity. And there was no difference between “official” and “underground” Catholics, a division created  primarily by the government which is why it has also received criticism from the UN.

These witnesses of faith and love are the very ones the Chinese police controls, stops, chokes and often detains and kills, like Fr. Wei Heping, found “having committed suicide” in Taiyuan in November. The pilgrimage of the diocese of Shanghai to Sheshan, on May 11 last recalled that the diocese is without a bishop: the ceremonies were led by several priests, but no pastor. The only bishop in this diocese, after the death of Msgr. Aloysius Jin Luxian (official) and Msgr. Joseph Fan Zhongliang (underground), is the young Msgr. Thaddeus Ma Daqin. But he has been held under house arrest since 2012, the day of his episcopal ordination, for the mere reason that he had decided and publically announced his intention to step down from the Patriotic Association, in order to dedicate himself and his time to the evangelization and care of his people.

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