ucanews.com reporters, Xian and Hong Kong
Updated: October 11, 2016 05:54 AM GMT
Portrait of St. Francis of Assisi was displayed in a liturgical dance to celebrate the third centenary of St. Francis Cathedral of Xian on Oct. 4. (Photo supplied)
St. Francis Cathedral of Xi'an in China's Shaanxi province celebrated its 300 year history in a rare four-day event beginning Oct. 1.
Thousands of people attended the event which included music, lectures, a cultural show, the installation of a relic of St. Francis of Assisi and the unveiling of a tablet to commemorate the cathedral's three centuries of history.
There were also art displays featuring the work of different parish groups, portraits of 21 past bishops and a cultural heritage display that showed the early history of the church in China.
"The series of events were designed to remind Catholics not to forget church history and remember the contribution of our earlier missionaries," Bishop Anthony Dang Mingyan of Xi'an told ucanews.com.
"Today, we have to bear the mission of evangelization so that the diocese continues to develop," the bishop said.
Part of the event also included the baptism of 41 people.
The bishop, recognized by both the Vatican and the Chinese government, said that the celebrations would be a chance for the church to grow in solidarity and to show God's mercy through the diocese's daily work and social services.
Due to government restrictions, events such as this, held over several days, are considered rare in China.
The facade of St. Francis Cathedral in Xi'an Diocese. The cathedral was first built in 1716 by Franciscan missionaries and extended to its current shape in 1883. (Photo supplied)
In his homily during the opening Mass on Oct. 1, Bishop Dang recalled the history of the first cathedral Chongyi Church and the present one located in Wuxing Street inside the walled city.
Chongyi Church was built — at what is now Tangfang Street — in 1625 by Father Nicolas Trigault who was assisted by local Catholic Wang Zheng.
Later the Franciscan missionaries arrived in 1716 and brought a land plot at the Tudi Temple crossroads (later renamed as Wuxing Street) where they built a church with St. Francis as its patron. The church was expanded in 1883, becoming the current cathedral, which is also known as the "South Church."
Bishop Dang said the church survived the warring periods in the early 1900s and never stopped evangelizing. Under Bishop Eugenio Massi in 1919, the Xi'an Diocese built primary and high schools, opened orphanages, homes for the elderly and hospitals, he said.
Bishop Anthony Dang Mingyan holding the relic of St. Francis of Assisi during the installation ceremony on Oct. 4, the feast of the patron saint (Photo supplied)
The climax of celebration, on Oct. 4, featured the installing of the relic and new memorial tablet.
"The Franciscan missionary used to manage the diocese and the cathedral's patron is St. Francis, so we applied for a relic of the saint which was sent to us in spring and we installed it on the saint's feast day on Oct. 4," said Bishop Dang.
"I hope Catholics will model their faith on this saint by being humble and living a simple in life, be in search of peace and love nature," Bishop Dang said.
In recent years, the cathedral parish has established Sunday schools, adult catechumen classes and catechist formation courses. They also have a Sunday soup kitchen for homeless people and the Home of Lourdes to care for the marginalized.
Xi'an, the province's capital, is one of four ancient capitals of China and was home to 13 dynasties. There are an estimated 40,000 Catholics now living in the diocese.
Bishop Anthony Dang Mingyan and other bishops pull down a red cloth to unveil a tablet that marks the third centenary of the cathedral on Oct. 4. (Photo supplied)