Sunday 21 May marks the beginning of the third annual Week of Global Prayer for China. This week-long prayer initiative was created in 2021 by a coalition of lay Catholics from around the world, who joined together in response to a global call from Cardinal Charles Bo SDB to pray for the Church and people of China.
Following the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen SDB in May last year in Hong Kong, an administrative region of China, Cardinal Bo—who is Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, and President of both the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar and the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences—released a statement expressing his ‘profound concern about the situation for human rights and threats to religious freedom in Hong Kong’. He called on Catholics and the wider Christian community around the world to pray for Hong Kong and urged the international community to continue to monitor the situation and speak out for freedom and justice.
‘Hong Kong used to be one of Asia’s freest and most open cities. Today, it has been transformed into a police state. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, and academic freedom have all been dismantled,’ he wrote in the statement. ‘To see a government in China break its promises made in an international treaty, the Sino–British Joint Declaration, so repeatedly and blatantly, is appalling.’
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI published a letter to the Church in the People’s Republic of China and designated 24 May, the feast of Our Lady of Help of Christians, as an annual worldwide day of prayer for the Church in China. In 2021, Cardinal Bo called for this day to be turned into a week of prayer each year and was ‘heartened’ when a group of lay Catholics around the world took up his invitation and established the Global Week of Prayer for China.
In 2018, Pope Francis also delivered a message to the Catholics of China and to the universal Church in which he said, ‘Dear brothers and sisters of the universal Church, all of us are called to recognise as one of the signs of our times everything that is happening today in the life of the Church in China. We have an important duty: to accompany our brothers and sisters in China with fervent prayer and fraternal friendship. Indeed, they need to feel that in the journey that now lies ahead, they are not alone.’
In its latest press release, Global Prayer for China writes, ‘We are alarmed and aggrieved by the oppression and persecution of China’s Christians and other religious minorities ... We pray for the government of China to govern with respect for universal and immutable human dignity and freedom of conscience and religion.’
‘In addition to the prayers of the faithful, we call upon all concerned people to be informed about the plight experienced by many in China under repressive and unjust laws and policies. We call upon legislators and members of international organisations to take up the issue of religious persecution in China, and to work collaboratively to promote human dignity, freedom, and peace in China during this time.’
More information on the work of Global Prayer for China can be found at www.globalprayerforchina.org
Melbourne Catholic30 November 2023
Melbourne Catholic29 November 2023