Pope Francis asked Catholics Wednesday to pray that the Gospel can be fully and freely shared in China.
At the end of his general audience on May 24, the pope recalled the Church’s celebration of “the World Day of Prayer for China, which coincides with the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, venerated and invoked in the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai.”
He said he wanted to use that occasion to remember and express his closeness to Catholics in China, “sharing their joys and their hopes.”
“A special thought,” Pope Francis said, “to all those who suffer, pastors and faithful, so that in the communion and solidarity of the Universal Church, they can experience consolation and encouragement.”
“I invite everyone to lift up prayers to God that the good news of the crucified and risen Christ can be announced in its fullness, beauty, and freedom, bearing fruit for the good of the Catholic Church and all of Chinese society,” he concluded.
In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed May 24, the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to be a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which venerates the Blessed Virgin Mary under that title as the country’s patroness.
Benedict XVI asked Catholics to pray this prayer on the occasion of the World Day of Prayer for China:
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 forever. Amen!