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Chinese Catholics celebrate double Marian feasts

Thousands turn out for Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of China feasts despite previous issues with the communist government

Chinese Catholics celebrate double Marian feasts

Bishop Gan Junqiu of Guangzhou incensed the statue of the Our Lady of Fatima before a procession around the Sacred Heart Cathedral began on the centenary of Our Lady of Fatima's apparitions. (Photo from Guangzhou Diocese WeChat account)

ucanews.com, Hong Kong
China

May 19, 2017

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Sixteen dioceses in China publicly held double celebrations for Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of China feasts May 13, despite problems in previous years with the communist government over the meaning of the Fatima apparition.

Chinese Catholics have a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother, believing she would always protect them.

During the 1950s, a time of religious persecution in China, the Communist Party were angered that the Holy See had called on Chinese Catholics to pray for the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima.

"They regarded her as 'Our Lady of Anti-Communism' and 'Our Lady of the Counterrevolution," recalled an elderly Catholic from China's underground church community.

"The Chinese communists are very afraid of Our Lady of Fatima as she mentioned communism will be destroyed in one of her secret prophecies," said Father Joseph, an underground priest.

The Our Lady of Fatima feast recognizes the appearance of apparitions to three shepherds in the small village of Fatima, Portugal, that took place on the 13th of each month from May to October 1917. Among the messages associated with the apparitions, the Vatican said part of the message predicted "the immense damage that Russia would do to humanity by abandoning the Christian faith and embracing Communist totalitarianism."

Meanwhile, the Our Lady of China feast is traditionally celebrated on the eve of Mother's Day that falls on the second Sunday in May.

Our Lady of China is the name given to an apparition of the Virgin Mary in Donglu, northern Hebei province, first appearing in 1900. An official image of the Our Lady was blessed and promulgated by Pope Pius XI in 1928, in response to requests made by the 1924 Shanghai Synod of Bishops in China. In 1941, Pope Pius XII designated an official Marian feast on the Catholic liturgical calendar. In 1973, the Holy See approved placing the feast day on the vigil of Mother’s Day.  

However, the associated taboo with venerating Our Lady of Fatima appears to have faded in recent years. Many dioceses, not able to hold public local celebrations, were still able to participate by reposting news on Pope Francis' visit to the Fatima centennial in Portugal via their social media accounts.

 

A statute of the Our Lady of Fatima stands above a flower bed of roses at the Guangzhou Diocese’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, in southern Guangdong province. (Photo from Guangzhou Diocese WeChat account)

 

Bishop Cai Bingrui of Xiamen celebrated the two feasts at Changtai Our Lady of Fatima Church with more than 2,000 Catholics on May 13. He also blessed a Marian shrine built to commemorate the centenary of the first apparition in Fatima.

According to reports, Father Liu Hengping from the Changtai Church prepared the centenary feast day with his parishioners six month ago, encouraging them to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, daily recitation of the Rosary and to make a pilgrimage on the 13th day of any month between May to October.

The double celebration took place in Xiamen Diocese, eastern Fujian province, according to Hebei Faith Press, a nationwide Catholic media in China.

In a southern diocese, whose bishop is not recognized by the government, a young Catholic by the name of Joseph recalled what he thought to be miraculous circumstances during their celebration at a new pilgrimage site on May 13.

"It was raining when the procession started. Some laypeople asked if the Rosary recitation could be cancelled and the Mass started right away. But our priest said 'the Blessed Mother will take care of it' and indeed, the rain stopped after we finished the Rosary recitation," Joseph told ucanews.com.

"We really need to follow the model of Our Lady and have faith in God," he said. 

The Our Lady of Fatima Church in Cheung Chau, an outlying island in Hong Kong, held its annual parish feast and pilgrimage, May 14. Cardinal John Tong of Hong Kong told some 300 pilgrims about the close links between the Blessed Mother and the China Church.

He said that when Jesuit missionary Father Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) went to meet Emperor Wanli in 1600, one of the two gifts he presented was a statute of the Blessed Mother.  In the modern times, the first two apostolic delegates for China also dedicated the China Church to the Blessed Mother.

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