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Dioceses Prepare To Meet Spiritual Needs Of Olympics Athletes, Visitors

  • China
  • August 31 2007
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The Catholic Church in Beijing and several other Chinese cities hosting the 29th Olympic Games is gearing up to provide religious services for athletes and visitors.

Most events for the first-ever Olympic Games in China, scheduled Aug. 8-24, 2008, will take place in Beijing, but Hong Kong, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Shanghai, Shenyang and Tianjin also will host events.

Father Chen Tianhao, parish priest at St. Michael´s Cathedral in Qingdao, told UCA News Aug. 21 that his diocese has set up a service team to cater to religious needs during the games. Qingdao will host the sailing competition.

Father Chen explained that the cathedral will include English Masses in its liturgy schedule next August, while Qingdao diocese may also send priests to the competition venue to celebrate Mass if the need arises. The port city in Shandong province is 550 kilometers southeast of Beijing.

To help its choirs sing hymns in English, the diocese has invited foreign musicians to train them starting in June this year and continuing into next year, the priest said. The diocese will also install a German-manufactured pipe organ in the cathedral before next August, he added.

Father Zhang Liang of Tianjin told UCA News Aug. 13 that since March, Tianjin diocese has started holding English Masses at Xikai Cathedral two Sundays a month, with an Irish priest presiding, in preparation for the Olympics.

Tianjin, just southeast of Beijing, is one of five cities that will host football (soccer) matches.

About 60-70 foreign Catholics working or studying there join the English Masses regularly. "Their participation and feedback have been good," said Father Zhang, the cathedral parish priest.

He noted that the Olympic competition venues appear to have worship areas. However, whether local priests with a good command of English will be assigned there for pastoral services will depend on the government, he said.

According to Beijing diocese´s Tianguang (light of heaven) website, the Beijing Municipal Religious Affairs Office held a course July 24-26 at the Central Institute of Ethnic Administrators in Haidian district. It trained Olympic volunteers from various religions on etiquette, cultures, China´s religious policies and regulations, and first aid.

The 60 participants include Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims and Protestants, according to the website. It identified Catholic participants as Beijing diocesan priests Fathers Matthew Zhen Xuebin and Joseph Zhao Qinglong; Sisters Jiao Yanming, Dong Xiaohong, Kou Suzhen and Yu Shuqin; and Li Jiangang and two other seminarians.

The website also stated that through the Catholic Patriotic Association of Chongwen district, 15 Catholic laypeople from Beijing diocese joined two district courses on English and etiquette in preparation for the Olympics. The courses were held July 18 and 27.

Priests from Shanghai and Shenyang dioceses, also based in cities where football matches are scheduled, say their dioceses have yet to arrange special pastoral services. However, they said local parishes currently provide regular Masses in English, Korean and other foreign languages. Shanghai is a coastal city 1,070 kilometers southeast of Beijing, while inland Shenyang, in Liaoning province, is 600 kilometers northeast of the capital.

Meanwhile, the official website of the 2008 Olympics has a page (en.beijing2008.cn/spectators/beijing/religion) highlighting worship venues in Beijing, including the five Catholic churches downtown.

END

(Accompanying photos available at here)

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