Pope Benedict XVI designated the 24th May each year as a special day of prayer with the Church in China urging the universal Church to join together with a special prayer at the weekend Masses in all our parishes. There is a special prayer for China to Our Lady of Sheshan written by Pope Benedict as a start. Focussed on the image of Mary holding her child above her head at the Chinese Shrine it reads;
“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.
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 up 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 Christ and all Asia, pray for us, now and for ever. Amen”.
China, by far the most populous and diverse country on earth was the focus of the national conference of the network of Diocesan Justice and Peace Commissions at Swanwick two years ago but since that time the pace of change in China continues. China’s future already looks far different from even five years ago.
It has moved on from the images of “red China” of fifty years ago or “Made in China” labels of twenty years ago. Today China is the country of rapidly growing huge cosmopolitan cities. By 2030 China will have added more new city dwellers (350 million), than the entire American population. By 2025 China will have completed ten New York sized cities. This tremendous city building project is consuming more steel than the US, Europe and Japan combined. It is sucking in most of the world’s iron ore and coal and increasing its oil consumption to fuel these cities. It is estimated that China’s economy will overtake that of America in the 2020s based on its consistent rapid growth, the development of its stock markets and investments in emerging markets. China took in debts during the global financial crisis and is now the major world investor buying up land for agriculture and raw material mining in African countries and Latin American countries to underpin its home growth. China’s education system, including sending citizens abroad for specialist training and research coupled with the development of use of the internet has moved Chinese economic growth away from reliance on agriculture and traditional manufacturing and into new technologies. In other words China is economically advancing. The challenge of course as more and more leave rural areas to work in the cities is to hold the rural and urban populations together. There are also challenges of democracy controls and human rights as economic development outstrips political development. But encouragingly, there has also been a rapid expansion of Christianity in China and it is on track to become the largest centre of Christianity in the world. Archbishop Rowan Williams commented that China is “soon becoming home to the largest Christian population on the globe”. There are currently an estimated 54 million Christians in China, 40 million Protestants and 14 million Catholics.
This year the national Catholic charity “Cultural Exchange With China” (CEC) which works of building bridges between the Catholic Churches of Britain and China is hosting its 13th Annual general meeting on 17th May (Saturday) at Our Lady Immaculate Parish Hall Chelmsford (CM2 OAR) at which there will be a full exploration of “the Church in Modern day China”, including a televised lecture by Chinese expert Martin Jacques “understanding the rise of China”, an account of the experience of teaching English in China from the friends of the Church in China and an up date from Fr Eamonn O’Brien The Columban priest who works in China and is the director of Cultural Exchange with China. He will give an address “The Catholic Church of China ‘more than a persecuted Church’”. The purpose of the conference is to engage and get people in the Catholic Church here up to speed with what is happening today in China and to dispel some of the out of date myths so that we will be in a better position to engage with the Chinese people as they move to centre stage in this century. The future of the Catholic Church given the scale of China with its 1.7 billion people could well be central to the future of the Catholic Church in the twenty first century. Those that can should try to get to the Chelmsford day conference or contact and support CEC (email@example.com) or at the very least join in the Pope’s day of prayer on 25th May and use the Sheshan prayer.