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Chinese Catholics urged to embrace prayerful lent

The apostolic administrator of Harbin called on Chinese Catholics to engage in a Lent marked by repentance, prayer, and love.

Fr. Giuseppe Zhao Hongchun echoed Pope Francis’ call for 2024 as the Year of Prayer in anticipation of the 2025 Jubilee.

In his message to the faithful, the priest stressed the need to draw inspiration from daily life for repentance, prayer, and love. 

Fr. Zhao encouraged Catholics to “dedicate ourselves to prayer throughout the year,” adding that the Lenten Season marks the beginning of the Year of Prayer, “rediscovering its central place in life faithful.” 

“For us, waiting for the arrival of the Jubilee is a time of dedication to repentance, redemption, the awakening of prayer, and the testimony of love,” he said.

Reflecting on Pope Francis’s call to daily prayer, Fr. Zhao urged a shift from a Church of ‘singing’ to ‘prayer’, cautioning against the dangers of externalized singing. He advocated for a profound connection with God through authentic prayer.

He said, “Externalized ‘singing’ tends to make us fall into the danger of performing, of pretending and listening only to ourselves, without being able to place ourselves fully and completely before God and abandon ourselves to his gaze.” 

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The priest stressed Catholics should not fall into the danger of “seeking our own interest.” He also discouraged distractions from “digital tools” that “get us used to the interference of external nothingness and It prevents us from living fully in the presence of God.”

Fr. Zhao emphasized the Holy Spirit’s role in guiding authentic prayer, urging believers to focus on prayer during Lent for progress in different aspects of faith.

“Without any imagination, simply giving everything, like Jesus, making a complete and total donation of oneself. In prayer we will become increasingly purified and sanctified, all existing for love and allowing ourselves to be captured by the love of God, experiencing the gaze of this love,” he said. 

Fr. Zhao urged believers to concentrate more on prayer during Lent, aiming for progress in various aspects of faith. The primary goal is to let the Holy Spirit inspire stronger, deeper, and more personal actions within them. 

“The whole of Lent leads to the cross and the mystery of the resurrection of Jesus,” he said.

He entrusted this Lenten period to the Virgin Mary, seeking her assistance in overcoming habits and futile efforts that impede the Holy Spirit. 

He asked for guidance in contemplative prayer, emphasizing the importance of keeping everything in the heart, reflecting on it repeatedly, and desiring only the fulfillment of God’s will.

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