ASIA/CHINA – Grief not removed and hope cherished. Letters and gestures of communion in the Chinese Catholic community at the beginning of the “Year of the Rabbit”
ASIA/CHINA: Grief not forgotten and hope cherished. At the beginning of the Year of the Rabbit, the Chinese Catholic community received letters and gestures of communion.
Harbin (Agenzia Fides). – Continue the Chinese New Year celebrations. People slowly return to their normal occupations, but loved ones start to say goodbye. In recent weeks, many have experienced moments of joy mixed with forgetfulness, as well as worrying thoughts about the last pandemic and the painful memories of the many elderly who were swept away by Covid-19. The flowers for the dead, chrysanthemums were the most popular holiday flowers in many cities.
The simplest gestures and faith of the Chinese Catholic communities scattered all over the country have kept the conscienceness alive before reality. They have also protected them from the social mechanisms that artificially remove grief. The Masses were dedicated to the memory of the dead, and the faith of the communities didn’t hide the emotional and physical sufferings that the Chinese people have endured over the past three decades.
The pastoral letter of Father Joseph Zhao Hongchun (apostolic administrator of Harbin), which was sent at the beginning of the New Year, is a powerful and public reminder of how the faith of the Apostles can help illuminate the path for Chinese Catholics in these difficult times. It was written by Father Zhao Hongchun, an eloquent and visible sign of how the faith in Christ can help in times of fatigue. This text is shared to show that faith in Christ can be comforting and illuminate the path, even when so many are suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
Two years ago, Father Zhao had already written a pastoral note to provide guidance on Christian discernment in the midst of the pandemic epidemic. Father Zhao emphasizes in the new message that taking good care of one’s body and keeping it healthy does not mean you are calculating selfishly. Because for every Christian, health is a gift to be given to others for the love God.
The Apostolic Administrator of Harbin’s letter is structured around three passages from the Sacred Scripture. This is to emphasize the fact that faith is the only way to reach out to Jesus and ask him for strength and consolation as we go through trials. Father Zhao writes, “The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom, and the knowledge of Saints is intelligence.” When there is a pandemic, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. He will help us walk in the real world without trying to convince us otherwise.
Father Zhao offers Father Zhao the second passage as a source for comfort. It is the sentence in Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians in which he writes that he had fulfilled in his flesh “what was lacking in the afflictions Christ.” (Col 1, 24). This, according to the Apostolic Administrator in Harbin, “doesn’t mean that Christ’s suffering for the salvation of the whole world is insufficient, but that the mystery and redemption accomplished by the most holy body of Christ continues to act within us.” We can rejoice in “everything” that happens in our lives, because “everything works to the benefit of those who love God.”
Father Zhao’s letter also continues, quoting Matthew Gospel verse “God prefers mercy than sacrifice” (Mt 9.13). And anyone who savors his mercy “can enter into communion” with him and experience his divine life.” The Lord’s mercy allows us to experience “the new commandments and miracles of Jesus” as a reflection of his charity in us. Father Zhao stresses that the faith of apostles “is as simple and straightforward as receiving life from God’s Love and giving it away to others”.
The Apostolic Administrator of Harbin also quotes from Pope Francis’ message regarding the World Day of Peace in 2023. It applies it to the local context: “Certainly, after touching with ourselves the fragility of human reality and our personal existence, it is clear that the greatest lesson from Covid-19 is that we all need one another, that human brotherhood is founded on our common divine filiation and that no one can save themselves alone. Father Joseph Zhao invites the sisters and brothers of the local Catholic community, despite the tribulations caused by the pandemic to enter the new year. He keeps preciously the words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew: “Seek first God’s kingdom and his justice, and all this will be given to your addition.” Don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will already be filled with anxieties. Every day has its pain” (Mt 6, 33-34). (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 26/1/2023)