Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Dwindling heritage landmarks at fire risk
Church and Beijing seek ways to protect historic sitesOur Lady of Sorrows Cathedral, a blend of Chinese and Western architecture
- ucanews.com reporter, Suzhou
- February 17, 2011
The grand hall and one of the wooden chambers of Fahai Temple in Fujianâs capital, Fuzhou, were gutted by fire on February 7, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
The blaze began after revellers celebrating Chinese New Year set off fireworks near the temple, Xinhua reported.
Founded in 945 A.D., the temple is home to the provincial and city Buddhist associations.
As a result of the blaze, the State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing issued an emergency fire-prevention notice to all its provincial and municipal bureaus two days later.
It ordered frequent inspections of fire-fighting equipment, immediate removal of fire hazards in religious venues, and improved awareness on fire safety issues among the clergy.
The Catholic Church in China is now also looking at how to protect its dwindling number of historical sites.
Almost all the existing historical churches were built after the First Opium War (1839-42) but many didnât survive a turbulent 20th century, which saw the Boxer Uprising (1900), Sino-Japanese War (1937-45), civil war and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
Our Lady of Sorrows Cathedral in Suzhou city, Jiangsu province, is one of the oldest churches in eastern China. The wood-and-brick church, which mixes Chinese and Western architecture, also suffered a fire accident recently.
âWe had a small fire but soon put it out. There was a short circuit when we decorated the manger with Christmas lights,â said Father Joseph Xu Jianguo, the parish priest.
The 117-year-old church has just replaced the circuitry, he told ucanews.com.
âWe are more aware about fire prevention,â especially after the manger incident and the Fahai Temple blaze, Father Xu noted.
âDuring Church feasts the parish appoints several laypeople as fire prevention officers, while on normal days itâs my responsibility to keep the church safe,â he said.
The fire department also carries out monthly inspections.
In northern China, a blaze that engulfed Xuanhua dioceseâs Shuangshu church in 2009, during renovation work, is still fresh in peopleâs minds.
Workers using a blowtorch to dry asphalt were blamed for the accident.
Paul, a Xuanhua layman, said he and many parishioners watched helplessly as the 87-year-old Gothic church was swallowed by flames.
âIt was a painful lesson for all clergy and faithful,â he said.
The church has been rebuilt and parishioners are expecting its interior to be completed soon, Paul added.
However, some rural churches lack the resources to implement adequate fire-prevention measures.
In Fujian, a parish priest of Mindong diocese said their century-old churches lack funds for fire-fighting equipment and keeping the churches in good repair.
âWe can do nothing except be vigilant,â he said, adding that firemen rarely inspect rural churches or train resident priests in fire prevention.
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