ASIA/CHINA - Large numbers of Chinese faithful on pilgrimages to Marian shrines throughout the country, especially to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan, in preparation for May 24th celebration
Shang Hai (Agenzia Fides) – Chinese Catholic pilgrims continue with their devotion of traveling to the Marian shrines of the county, in light of the upcoming May 24th celebration of the second "Day of Prayer for the Church in China," which was instituted by Pope Benedict XVI in his Letter to Chinese Catholics, signed May 27, 2007, Solemnity of Pentecost, with these words: "Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May 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."
The Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan, mentioned by the Pope, to whom he himself has written a prayer, is seeing a great number of pilgrims during this month dedicated to Mary. The average number on a daily basis is estimated to be about 1,000 pilgrims. The faithful come from the local Diocese of Shanghai, as well as that of Jiang Su, Zhe Jiang, Hong Kong, Taiwan...and even from communities of Chinese living in the diaspora.
140 faithful from the parish of Wu Qiao in the Diocese of Cang Zhou, in the He Bei Province went on a pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine on Mount Ping Ying in the Province of Shan Dong, where the largest shrine dedicated to Saint Joseph is, as well as the Mount of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Bishop Fang Xing Yao of the Diocese of LinYi, of the Province Shang Dong, led the pilgrimage on May 13, feast of Our Lady of Fatima, to the Marian Shrine of Wang Zhuang, established in 1905. Over 30,000 faithful, Chinese and foreigners included, from He Bei, Jiang Su, Shan Dong...all participated in the great Catholic gathering. To show their appreciation for the Catholic community, the highway authorities of the road that leads to the Shrine suspended the toll payment to all vehicles going to the Shrine. The local Church offered all the transportation services possible to the pilgrims. As some faithful said: "it was a day of communion and authentically Christian fraternity." During the homily, Bishop Fang said: "the pilgrimage helps us to strengthen our faith and to intercede for the good of the country and the world. It reminds us that saving our soul is the most important in our life. We should imitate Mary's humility and always follow the Lord's commandment of love of neighbor. Our prayer, devotion, and the pilgrimage all help us to have a more united family, and a purer and holier society."
106 faithful from the parish of Fu An in the Diocese of Min Dong gathered together on May 15 in the Village of the Rosary, the most famous Shrine and largest in the Fu Zhou area in the Province of Fu Jian. According to the priest, "the day was the International Day of the Family, and was chosen to help promote the Christian message on the family. The family is the cell of society and the Church is like one family, the heart of society. Thus, we dedicate our celebration to the Lord and Our Lady, Mother of All Families."
The Catholic Association of Saint Anne of the Parish of Wu Qiang, in the Diocese of Heng Shui in the Province of He Bei, visited the Village of Lourdes (Marian Shrine) of the Diocese of Xian Xian. A group of pilgrims from the Diocese of Ning Bo, in the Province of Zhe Jiang traveled to the Marian Shrine of Fan Ge Da in the Diocese of Xian Xian in the Province of He Bei. Some 80 pilgrims from the Diocese of Nan Yang of the Province of He Nan have taken a Pilgrimage Week (May 8-15), traveling through Beijing, Zheng Zhou, Tai Yuan, and various other provinces.
(NZ) (Agenzia Fides 22/5/2009)
Pope Benedict's Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan
Help of Christians
"Dear Pastors and all the faithful, the date 24 May 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.
Pray for Persecutors
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. I remind you, moreover, of the commandment that Jesus gave us, to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us, as well as the invitation of the Apostle Saint Paul: "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:1-4).
When Everything Can Seem a Failure
On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world – in particular those who are of Chinese origin – will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, 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.
At the conclusion of this Letter I pray that you, dear Pastors of the Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, may "rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:6-7).
Mother of the Church and Queen of China
May Mary Most Holy, Mother of the Church and Queen of China, who at the hour of the Cross patiently awaited the morning of the Resurrection in the silence of hope, accompany you with maternal solicitude and intercede for all of you, together with Saint Joseph and the countless Holy Martyrs of China."
Prayer to Our Lady, Help of Christians, of Sheshan
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!