Pray With the Pope: March 2020
For Heroic Catholics In China
Intention: We pray that the Church in China may persevere in its faithfulness to the Gospel and grow in unity.
The coronavirus has reminded us that we are all involved with China. We half-consciously use Chinese products all the time and the growing Chinese influence on the world economy is probably the economic story of our era.
After reading a fascinating book entitled The Silk Roads by the historian Peter Frankopan and its sequel, The New Silk Roads, I came to the conclusion that modern China has a plan—and we are all part of it.
We should all therefore pay close attention to China and try to understand what is happening in that inscrutable “Middle Kingdom”.
There are some ten million Catholics in China, which is a way for us fellow Catholics to find a perspective on this ancient and venerable culture.
It is a Church which has held on tenaciously to the faith through long periods of persecution. These members of the Body of Christ are survivors and the children of survivors.
Today it is no longer illegal to be a Catholic or a Christian in China, but there is still an extremely high level of control exercised by the Party upon the Chinese Catholic Church. The so-called Patriotic Church has to consult the Party when it comes to the appointment of bishops.
As recently as 2018, the Party in some areas forced churches to cover up crosses and, in some cases, demolished churches. The issue seems to be one of the power of large, visible symbols.
However, many Chinese Catholics play down the differences between the “Patriotic Church” and the “Underground Church”, emphasising their unity in Christ.
One priest, speaking in a recent documentary, said that he didn’t think the Lord would ask Chinese Catholics at their judgment whether they were of the Patriotic or Underground Church, but how they had loved as Christians.
No doubt some Underground Church members would disagree. Some have been very critical of the current Vatican policy of cooperation with Beijing.
In the same documentary (it’s on YouTube: www.bit.ly/2UtaH1T), a missionary priest expressed the opinion that this division was not the biggest problem facing Chinese Catholics—rather, urbanisation is.
Along with millions of their compatriots, Chinese Catholics have migrated from their villages to the big cities in search of work and a better life. The change from living in a village where perhaps almost everyone is a Catholic to a vast secular city in which some people have never even heard of Christianity, can cause a high dropout rate in the practice of the faith.
It’s not a uniquely Chinese problem of course, but because Catholics are a small minority in a huge secular sea, making this transition without losing one’s faith is probably harder in China than it is in many other places.
For the local Church leadership this migration poses a real challenge of going out to bring back the lost and preaching the Gospel to people in a very different environment to their home villages.
However, the story of the survival of the faith in China is a cause for hope. During the periods when the missionaries were excluded from the country, zealous Chinese laypeople managed to cling tenaciously to their faith, baptising their children and teaching them the basics of their belief in Jesus Christ.
We pray that they will be able to cling to and even propagate their faith as they pass through this momentous time of transition of China from an agrarian society to an industrial superpower.
天主敎 “Religion of the Lord of Heaven”
Please note that The Apostleship of Prayer will no longer be printing leaflets. In this digital age, one can simply go to www.clicktopray.org and download the app to receive some brief, daily directions for your prayer, based on the pope’s monthly intentions.