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Catholics rally in support of Bishop Ma

Prayer vigil and Mass draw unexpected crowds, says organizer

Catholics in Hong Kong recite the rosary aloud in front of the central government’s Liaison Office yesterday Catholics in Hong Kong recite the rosary aloud in front of the central government’s Liaison Office yesterday
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • July 17, 2012
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A prayer service and special Mass in support of religious freedom in China drew unexpected crowds yesterday as Catholics rallied in support of a newly ordained bishop.

About 300 people gathered in front of Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong to recite the Rosary aloud, while an estimated 1,000 crowded into St Margaret’s Church in Happy Valley for Mass.

Patrick Poon, convener of the local diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission’s China Affairs Committee and one of the organizers of the events, said the high turnout showed an increased concern for the Church in China among local Catholics.

Yesterday’s events followed the Vatican-approved ordination on July 7 of Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai, who publicly gave up his positions in the government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), which is not recognized by the Vatican.

He has since reportedly been confined to the compound of Sheshan seminary and prohibited from assuming his duties as bishop.

“Bishop Ma has become a living example of how the Church is controlled by the CPA. Now more people understand where the problem comes from,” Poon said.

Italian Father Franco Mella said Bishop Ma’s actions could have an important impact on Catholics in China.

“Bishop Ma is probably the first bishop to say openly that he wants more freedom and this will definitely influence Christians in China to express their wishes courageously,” said Fr Mella, a rights activist who has served the poor on the mainland for decades.

Participants in the prayer gathering and the Mass, celebrated by retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong along with 20 other priests, also prayed for parishioners in Heilongjiang province, where Father Joseph Yue Fusheng was illicitly ordained on July 6.

“Some brothers in China have submitted themselves to be slaves, while some others have become corrupted as they fail to withstand temptations,” 80-year-old Cardinal Zen said.

“Many people question why the atheist government intervenes in Church matters,” he added.

He further asked the congregation to “pray for the ones who fell down to rise, the hesitating ones to be strong and the strong ones to hold on straight to the end."

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