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Chinese Catholics help elderly, students during Lent

Despite restrictions on religious activities, the faithful engage in acts of charity in various dioceses

A Catholic worshipper holds a rosary during an Ash Wednesday mass, which marks the beginning of Lent, at Beijing's government-sanctioned South Cathedral on Feb. 14, 2018
A Catholic worshipper holds a rosary during an Ash Wednesday mass, which marks the beginning of Lent, at Beijing's government-sanctioned South Cathedral on Feb. 14, 2018. (Photo: Greg Baker/AFP)

Published: March 28, 2023 10:48 AM GMT

Updated: March 29, 2023 04:32 AM GMT

Catholics in communist-ruled China have engaged in various acts of charity including free medical care for elderly and disabled people and scholarships for students from poor families during the Season of Lent.

Churches and lay associations in various dioceses have participated in corporal and spiritual works of mercy for needy people, Vatican’s Fides news agency reported on March 24.

The Saint Francis Foundation in Beijing operates with support from the parishioners of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church and extends its support to those in urgent need and facing a cash crunch.

This year’s Lenten alms collections – which include financial aid among others – will go to the communities in the Miao Autonomous County of Pingbian in Honghe Prefecture, Yunnan Province.

The group has also prepared for two charity sales on Palm Sunday, April 2, which aims to raise funds to support 19 university students belonging to the Miao ethnic minority.

Other parishes and organizations are also actively contributing toward supporting students in need of financial assistance.

Within two years of its establishment, the Group of Volunteers at the Immaculate Conception parish has managed to support 41 students from cash-strapped families to obtain higher education.

In 2023, through the priests and nuns working in the region, the group received around 58 scholarship applications from students belonging to economically backward communities.

The group plans to raise funds through donations from able-bodied members of the Catholic community in the region.

However, the Catholic community in Shanghai and Zhejiang have assisted those in need of healthcare.

This year, the Association of Catholic Intellectuals in Shanghai provided free medical examinations to intellectually disabled people in the region through donations collected from kind-hearted individuals.

The Provincial Catholic Charitable Health Counseling Service Team in Zhejiang Province provided free medical services to Catholics and non-Catholics at Fenghua Parish in Ningbo Diocese.

Hundreds of people in the area, including those suffering from various illnesses, received free medical check-ups from 30 volunteer Catholic doctors who were part of the counseling service team.

The team also distributed packets of medicines free of cost to those who could not afford them.

The team has been active for the last seven years in providing medical assistance through donations and support from various Catholic organizations.

This year, the Diocese of Ningbo supported the team with logistics and other resources.

Parishioners from Xiangzhou Parish, Zhuhai City took to the old-age homes this Lent to provide emotional support to the elderly.

The parishioners visited the Fraternity Rest Home in Zhuhai City where they spent time talking to the residents and assisting them in their daily routines.

Catholic Church in China operates amidst constant monitoring and restrictions from the communist regime.

The communist authorities aim to strictly manage religions in a way to make the religious adherents follow and implement the Chinese Communist Party’s ideologies and political agenda.

There are estimated 12 million Catholics in China, divided into the state-sanctioned patriotic church and the Vatican-aligned underground church.

China severed diplomatic ties with the Vatican following the communist takeover about seven decades ago.

However, in 2018, the Vatican signed a secretive deal with China for two years, to end the decades-old dispute over the appointment of Catholic bishops. Since then six bishops were ordained with approval of the both parties and the Vatican recognized several “illicitly ordained” bishops.

The deal was renewed in 2020 and 2022, each time for two years.

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