World Day of Prayer for the Church in China
A World Day of Prayer for the Church in China will be celebrated on 24 May 2008 in Poland and in the world for the first time. This is the answer to the request of Benedict XVI expressed in his message to the Chinese faithful. In Poland the information about this special day of prayer has been prepared by the Polish Bishops’ Commission for Missions.
Pope Benedict XVI announced a world day of prayer for the Church in China in his Letter to the Chinese Faithful of 27 May 2007. He asked that the liturgical feast of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians, worshiped with great piety in the Marian shrine of our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai, would become an occasion for all Catholics to get united in prayer for the Church in China. 50% of the Chinese are agnostics, 30% confess the traditional Chinese religions, ca. 9% are Buddhists and only 1% are Catholics. Although the percentage is small, actually there are 12-14 million believers who suffer numerous persecutions. 22 out of 138 dioceses have no priests. Almost 2,400 clergymen and nuns belong to the so-called underground Church. ‘What each of us can offer supporting China is prayer. China needs our prayers very much. China is the biggest and most populous country in the world. It has suffered special persecutions for years. Let us join the spiritual chain’, we read in the text prepared by the Polish Bishops’ Commission for Missions. ‘We should be in the spiritual bridge of people who hurry to bring spiritual help for the afflicted China. Let us support the Church in China by our daily prayers. Let us pray for the freedom of this Church. Let us ask God for the conversion of the whole of China’. The Chairman of the Commission Bishop Wiktor Skworc expressed his conviction that the Polish Church’s prayer for Catholics living in China would be the support they waited for.
The Bulletin ‘Chiny Dzisiaj’ [Today’s China], which has been published in Poland since 2006, shows the lives of the Chinese Catholics. It is dedicated to religious issues in China, including Christianity and in particular the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China. It has been prepared by the Polish Bishops’ Commission for Missions, the Polish Province of the Divine Word Missionaries and the Polish Province of Christ the King of the Pallottine Fathers. Some articles published in the bulletin come from the German bimonthly ‘China heute’ published by China Zentrum in Sankt Augustin.
It is worth mentioning that there are Polish traces in the history of China’s evangelisation. The Franciscan friar Benedykt Polak participated in the first delegation of Pope Innocent IV to the Mongolian Khan Guyuk and he wrote a report of his mission. The contacts between Poles and China were revived in the 17th century when the Jesuits arrived in China via India when the Middle Country had opened its borders. After Poland had regained independence a new chapter of its involvement in evangelisation in China began. Polish missionaries, members of international religious communities, went to work in China. Polish religious congregations (both male and female) also opened their centres there. We should mention the Jesuits, the Dominicans, the Divine Word Missionaries, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the Franciscans, the Missionaries of Vincent a Paulo, the Carmelites and numerous nuns. ‘This involvement has also been seen today’, stresses Bishop Skworc. Polish missionaries have been active in China in a more or less official way.