Those disappointed by materialism, consumerism and communist ideology seek new spiritual sources. In various Chinese parishes courses for catechumens are organized, but also studies and Bible reading, Eucharistic adoration, the Way of the Cross and many acts of charity.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - "Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, penance, but above all it is the time to care for those suffering around us, especially those who hunger and thirst for God”, said Fr. Zhu introducing the Lenten program for his parish in Changshu, in the Diocese of Suzhou (Jiangsu) on Ash Wednesday. Fr. Zhu also recalled the message that Pope Francis sent to all Catholics in the world to mark the Lenten season.
Chinese Catholics practice a rather traditional faith and the period of Lent is dedicated to interior conversion, contemplation of the passion of Jesus (Way of the Cross), fasting and works of charity. But these last two aspects are characterized by witness and mission, given that there is an increasingly strong desire for spirituality and to find God in China. This is due to the materialism and consumerism that dominates society, as well as the ideological crisis in the Communist Party, that drives people to find new points of reference in their lives.
As a result of this, many parishes offer catechism classes that prepare dozens of catechumens for baptism at the Easter Vigil, and ahead of this Christian faithful are invited to rediscover their faith and communicate it to their friends. For this in many parishes during Lent we organize courses to study and deepen their knowledge of the Bible.
The parish of Yixingbu (diocese of Tianjin), for example, and that of the cathedral take courses on Bible reading. The same happens in the parishes of LiuJiazhuang and Nandubi (diocese of Hongdong, Shanxi).
A Dalian (Liaoning), there is even an elaborate program for spiritual formation, with courses in theology and ethics throughout the entire year.
In the diocese of Beijing, Yongning, Fr. Zhang Tianlu has gone to great lengths to propose a liturgical gesture and a gesture of charity. Thus, every Friday during Lent at 17:30 there is the Way of the Cross, but the faithful are encouraged to carry out a gesture of charity by visiting the poor, sick, etc on the same day.
In Tongzhou (Beijing diocese), Fr. John Yu Taiyong has a weekly plan: Bible study on Monday; an hour of adoration every Thursday; Taizé Youth Prayer on Friday. In addition, every day he encourages visits to orphanages to homes for the elderly and children, as well as fasting, pilgrimages and collecting donations for the poor.
Following Pope Francis’ Lenten Message, the priests proposed catechesis, retreats, Eucharistic adoration, Via Crucis, works of charity. Renewal for individuals, families, parishes, society.
State newspapers and radio report on Pope Francis’ interview with Asia Times. There are those who dream of an impending papal visit to China. Underground priests subjected to interrogation. Appreciation for "the olive branch" extended by the Pope and for his pointing out the value of Chinese culture. But skepticism surrounds Beijing leadership’s response. The dialogue between China and the Vatican cannot bring results, because there are different interests at play, both political and religious. Diplomatic relations cannot come at the cost of the freedom of the Church and the sacrifices of its martyrs. The Chinese Church is growing.
A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences comments on Francis’ words about the Asian country: "pleasant" references to respect for the culture and for the people, "surprising" the absence of any reference to religious matters. The faithful have some doubts, but they hope that their fears will soon be allayed.