VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has called for a special day of prayer for the Church in China, to be observed on Pentecost Sunday. The Holy Father’s appeal comes ahead of Sunday’s feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, celebrated throughout the world on May 24.
Following his general audience catechesis on Wednesday, May 20, the Pope asked the faithful across the world to pray especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of ‘Our Lady Help of Christians’, whom Chinese Catholics venerate in a special way on Pentecost at her shrine in Shanghai.
It was Pope Benedict XVI who, in a letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, first expressed his hope that the liturgical feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, might “become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China.”
He wrote: “The date of May 24 could in the future become an occasion for the Catholics of the whole world to be united in prayer with the Church which is in China. This day is dedicated to the liturgical memorial of Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated with great devotion at the Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.
Pope Benedict continued: “I would like that date to be kept by you as a day of prayer for the Church in China. I encourage you to celebrate it by renewing your communion of faith in Jesus our Lord and of faithfulness to the Pope, and by praying that the unity among you may become ever deeper and more visible.”
In the same letter, echoing Pope St. John Paul II, he also expressed his desire “that concrete forms of communication and cooperation between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China may soon be established.”
Pope Benedict then added, citing his predecessor’s 2001 address to participants in an international conference on dialogue between China and the West: “It is no secret that the Holy See, in the name of the whole Catholic Church and, I believe, for the benefit of the whole human family, hopes for the opening of some form of dialogue with the authorities of the People’s Republic of China. Once the misunderstandings of the past have been overcome, such a dialogue would make it possible for us to work together for the good of the Chinese People and for peace in the world.”
Here below is the official English text of Pope Francis’ call to pray for China on Pentecost.
Dear brothers and sisters,
On the 24 May, the Catholics in China will implore with devotion Our Lady Help of Christians, venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. In the statue, which towers above the Shrine, we see Mary who holds her Son high, presenting him to the world with arms opened wide in a gesture of love and mercy. We too will ask Mary to help Catholics in China to be always credible witnesses of this merciful love among their fellow citizens and to live spiritually united to the rock of Peter upon whom the Church is built.
Diane Montagna is Rome correspondent for Aleteia’s English edition.