Pope’s appeal for World Day of Prayer for Church in China
(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis made a special appeal for prayer for Catholics in China. The Holy Father’s appeal comes ahead of Sunday’s feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, celebrated throughout the world on May 24.
Chinese Catholics have a special devotion to Mary, Help of Christians, whose feast day is marked with special devotions and pilgrimages, especially to the National Marian Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.
In a letter to Chinese Catholics in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI 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.”
In his appeal on Wednesday, Pope Francis noted that the statue at the Shrine of Sheshan depicts Mary holding the Child Jesus in the air with his arms outstretched “in a gesture of love and mercy.” He called on all Christians to “ask Mary to help Catholics in China to be ever more credible witnesses of this merciful love in the midst of their people, and to live spiritually united to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.”
Below please find the English translation of Pope Francis’ appeal for prayer for Catholics in China:
On May 24, Catholics in China will be praying with devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. In the statue overlooking the Shrine, Mary is holding up her Son, presenting Him to the world with arms open in a gesture of love and mercy. May we, too, ask Mary to help Catholics in China to be ever more credible witnesses of this merciful love in the midst of their people, and to live spiritually united to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Benedict XVI’s Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan for the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China in 2008 can be found below:
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!